by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
I’ve written here before that reforming occupational licensing is an issue that unites the Right and Left (the opposition comes from special interests). This week Congress provided another example of that. From The Hill:
The House and Senate passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act. Among the bill’s myriad features was a version of the New Hope Act, legislation that would allow states to use federal education funds to identify and examine licenses or certifications that “pose an unwarranted barrier to entry into the workforce.” States could potentially use this money to, say, form a commission to study existing licensing requirements in the state and identify ones that should be eliminated or curtailed.
As discussed here, given that the licenses are entry barriers that get in the way of people engaging in their right to earn a living, states should diligent about ensuring that their occupational licenses and licensing requirements are demonstrably necessary, carefully tailored, and legitimate. But entrenched special interests know how to thwart good-faith efforts to do that, although recently several states have been able to pass significant reforms. This law could help other states undertake licensing reviews they’ve been unable to start.
The Hill identifies other reforms this bipartisan effort can pursue next:
Congress could pass more ambitious legislation, such as the Alternatives to Licensing that Lower Obstacles to Work Act (ALLOW), which would draw upon Congress’ authority over federal land to eliminate licensing requirements for national park guides and those working on military bases. This is particularly important, as military spouses were 10 times as likely to move to a new state in the past year than the average American — making it difficult for them to maintain their professions given the differing licensing requirements from state to state.
Most recently, Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) introduced the Protecting JOBs Act, which would condition federal funding on the elimination of state laws that revoke occupational licenses when people fall behind in student loans. Laws like these take away the primary source of income for many struggling to catch up on student loan payments. Federal involvement makes sense in this area since it was the Department of Education that originally encouraged states to enact these laws.
This is also another reminder that the federal government is becoming more engaged in the issue of occupational licensing among the states. Which should, as I’ve argued, serve as another reason for state policymakers to reform occupational licensing here.