by Jon Sanders
Director of the Center for Food, Power, and Life, Research Editor | John Locke Foundation
It’s official: there have been just as many successful de-licensing efforts in the past two years as there were the previous 40 years.
In September, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill that, among other things, repeals occupational licensing requirements for athlete agents and real estate timeshare sales.
So this graph from my recent report on Modernizing North Carolina’s Outdated Occupational Licensing Practices is already out-of-date:
The big news is that states are taking seriously the fact that the ice jam is breaking on state occupational licensing practices. Even as North Carolina has yet to join the movement, we can thank a North Carolina licensing board’s overzealous protectionism for being an unwitting factor.
One of the major causes of this change has to be the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners v. Federal Trade Commission. That decision dismantled the presumption that state occupational licensing boards are automatically immune from federal antitrust laws.
Meanwhile, there has been a growing consensus among thinkers across the political spectrum about occupational licensing laws’ many problems and harms. Few issues find so much unity among conservatives, liberals, and libertarians.
Except, perhaps, criminal justice reform.
As I wrote in my report,
By design, licensing blocks people from simply entering their chosen field of labor. Only those who cross all the hurdles to get a license can ply their trade.
Those hurdles can include licensing fees, school tuition and fees to obtain mandatory credentials or continuing education credits, sitting fees for qualifying exams, time spent gaining experience, time spent studying for classes and qualifying exams, opportunity costs of forgone work, and also satisfying licensing boards’ criminal background checks and “good moral character” requirements.
In 2016, Gov. Rauner signed into law a reform that did away with the practice of using irrelevant criminal convictions to deny occupational licenses to applicants seeking work in many low- and moderate-income fields.
As the Illinois Policy Institute explains:
This legislation prohibits the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation from barring former offenders from working as barbers, cosmetologists, hair braiders, estheticians, nail technicians, roofing business owners or funeral directors – unless they’ve been convicted of a crime “directly related” to the practice of that occupation. “Directly related” offenses that could disqualify a person from obtaining a license include sex offenses and other serious violent crimes, which are listed in the statute. …
National survey data show ex-offenders struggle to find work: Between 60 and 75 percent of former offenders are still unemployed a year after exiting prison, which in turn leads many to return to crime after release, inflicting harm on more victims and costing taxpayers billions. Expanding access to licensed occupations can help. …
One of the best predictors of success after prison is the ability to find work. Studies by the Urban Institute and the Safer Foundation show that ex-offenders who get jobs after release are less likely to commit crimes in the future and are more likely to be self-sufficient, contributing members of society.