By Albert Downs
Last year, the culmination of national momentum on the review and reform of state occupational and professional licensing laws was the inaugural meeting of the 11-state Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium (OLLC).
For the first time, executive agencies, regulators, and legislators from across the country convened to discuss the current landscape of licensing laws, improve their understanding of where their own laws may create undue barriers to economic opportunity, and begin the development of policy action plans to address these unintended consequences in a comprehensive way.
The 11 states selected to participate in the OLLC through 2019 are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin.
At the December meeting, diverse presentations from national experts in the field including University of Minnesota researcher Morris Kleiner on the economics of licensing and Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation President Cory Everett on the mechanics of upholding health and safety laws, provided policymakers from all OLLC member states with the context needed to begin their work. Additionally, licensing policy success stories were shared by leaders from non-participant states like Arizona and Vermont.
Beyond participating in educational sessions, the real work of the OLLC was to begin crafting a specific plan of action to addresses the challenges of licensing in each respective state.
State legislators from Arkansas said their goal is to “create an action plan that focuses on removing barriers to labor market entry and improves portability and reciprocity for select occupations. Nevada Assemblyman Nelson Araujo (D) said his team “identified four ‘in-demand’ occupations in the construction and healthcare industries for further study,” while calling the project “a collaborative effort between many stakeholders, including the legislative branch, the executive branch, the regulatory boards and the public.”
Each team from the OLLC member states will be meeting again in the early months of this year to further develop their respective plans. In some OLLC states, licensing policy changes will begin to take effect in 2018. In Connecticut, as of Jan. 1, occupations like swimming pool assembler, athletic agent and wholesale liquor salesperson no longer require state licensing. In Wisconsin, as of last month, cosmetologists moving into the state will face an easier path to licensure.
While these 11 states may be leading the way, several other states who were not selected for the consortium have been making strides to address their own licensing laws in 2018.
- The Nebraska Legislature failed to pass all of the licensing reforms favored by the governor, but a bill to require a review of all the state’s licensing requirements is a top priority for legislative leaders.
- Prompted in part by a recent report from Institute for Justice that identified the state’s licensing laws as among the most burdensome for low-income occupations, legislators in Louisiana are now pushing for a consolidation of licensing boards and the effort has gained the support of Governor John Bel Edwards (D).
- South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard (R) has announced his state’s proposal to create a multi-state licensing compact that would offer temporary reciprocity across state lines for all occupational and professional licenses. The plan would allow an 18 month grace-period for most new residents who are licensed in another state, with spouses of active duty military members, who are disproportionately disadvantaged by licensing laws, allowed 24 months to transition.
- In Oklahoma, a task force created by Governor Mary Fallin (R) to review licensing laws in the state has just released 12 recommendations for the legislature to consider in 2018, including conducting a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of existing requirements, consolidating licensing authority into an umbrella agency, and reducing restrictions on individuals with criminal records who are seeking to re-enter the workforce.
- Lastly, governors in New York, Arizona and New Hampshire discussed the importance of addressing the undue barriers to work created by licensing in recent speeches outlining the 2018 agendas.
In 2017, the large and growing body of research showing the negative consequences of licensing on workers and consumers led state policymakers to begin reevaluating occupational and professional licensing regimes in a bipartisan way.
While only 11 states are members of the OLLC, lawmakers across the country are poised to take on counterproductive occupational and professional licensing laws in 2018.
Albert Downs is a policy specialist in NCSL's Employment, Labor & Retirement program.