Republican and Democratic governors say licensing reforms are “jobs bills”

Republican and Democratic governors say licensing reforms are “jobs bills”

Many states have undertaken a series of occupational licensing reforms across the country—some comprehensive and some piecemeal. From regular licensing reviews to expanding licensing opportunities, to eliminating licenses that no longer make sense in today’s context, to removing exclusions for those who have felonies in their backgrounds, many policymakers recognize that licensing requirements can limit job opportunities in their state.

Last week’s occupational licensing panel at the Platte Institute’s Virtual Legislative Summit featured two sitting governors: Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, and Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican from Iowa. Their states and several others have enacted reforms, but the boldest of those have been their “Universal Recognition” bills, which acknowledges that a license (or work experience) earned and recognized in one state doesn’t automatically go away when a worker crosses state lines.

Universal recognition bills have grown in popularity in many states. In 2020, more than 24 states (including Nebraska) introduced bills that offered some level of universal recognition. The question might be asked: Why are states so willing to effectively set aside their licensing standards and accept the licensing standards, or in some cases—where states don’t license an occupation—work experience, of other states?

As part of our licensing panel, both governors made clear that their reason for championing universal recognition in their states was because they were “jobs bills,” as Gov. Wolf emphasized. Virtually every state in the country complains of a shortage of skilled workers. Whether those workers’ occupations require licensing or family members’ careers require licensing, burdensome licensing can keep people from moving to your state.

Governors and legislators around the country recognize that occupational licensing, usually done under the auspices of protecting the public’s health and safety, sometimes has the effect of discouraging those in needed occupations from re-locating, serving as a disadvantage to consumers in need of services.

In 2020, Sen. Andrew La Grone introduced LB1187 in the legislature. The bill would have created a universal recognition framework, applying to most licenses issued by the state, and would have required that:

…occupational boards issue an occupational license or government certification to an individual upon application if they meet a set of reasonable criteria through their work experience of a similar scope in another state, in lieu of the personal qualification requirements present in the application for that occupational license or government certificate.

The Platte Institute supported universal recognition in 2020 and will continue to advocate for it in 2021 because we believe that it is an essential element of reducing the barriers to employment created by years of well-intended but outdated regulation.

For more information on occupational licensing in the 106th Legislature, see our recently released review.

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