Barbers who leave one state to work in another don’t forget how to cut hair along the way. Real estate professionals who relocate don’t forget how to sell real estate, nor do nurses forget how to deliver care.
Yet for these and the dozens of other professions for which state governments require an occupational license before someone can work in a particular field, crossing state lines could mean either unemployment or spending time and money satisfying a state board that one is competent to practice a profession one already practices in another state.
Fortunately, with its adoption of the first universal occupational licensing recognition law in the country, Arizona is leading the way in removing these barriers to opportunity and setting the trend for other states to follow suit.
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In the 1950s, only 5 percent of jobs required an occupational license; today, roughly one in four jobs requires one. And the types of professions that are licensed often have no relation to protecting the public’s health and safety. In some states, professions as innocuous as florists, interior designers, and hair shampooers have comprehensive training and testing requirements before one can place flowers in a jar, move furniture around a house, or wash someone’s hair.
Despite this explosion of licensing requirements in recent decades, its haphazard nature bolsters the argument that public welfare is not at the heart of this overregulation. Investigative research from the Goldwater Institute’s Mark Flatten found that only about 30 professions are licensed in all 50 states — and what’s more, the requirements to get these licenses vary greatly by state.
Perhaps even more nonsensical, many professions are only licensed in a single state or only a handful of states. When the vast majority of states don’t find an occupation worthy of a licensing requirement, that’s hardly a strong case that licensing is needed in those professions to protect the public.
These occupational requirements, which fall disproportionately on low-income professions, can prevent interstate mobility and encourage unemployment. Military families have often experienced this most painfully when the non-military spouse is forced to either get a new license (with each three-year move) or exit the workforce.
People who have been safely and productively practicing their trade in one state can safely and productively practice it in another.
Arizona addressed this problem long ago by waiving state licensing requirements for servicemembers and their spouses, so long as they were licensed and in good standing in another state. Of course, the sky didn’t fall when duplicative licensing requirements were waived.
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Now a new Arizona law will extend these same protections to all those moving into the state. Under this law, if someone holds a license in another state and has been practicing in good standing there for at least a year, Arizona will recognize his or her license upon relocating. This policy is based on a simple and obvious fact: People who have been safely and productively practicing their trade in one state can safely and productively practice it in another.
We’re a more mobile society than ever — and as Gov. Doug Ducey said in his State of the State address in January, Arizona is expected to welcome 100,000 new residents this year alone. For those among them who need a license to practice their trade, they’ll now be able to continue working more easily without having to jump through unnecessary bureaucratic hoops. Other states should follow Arizona’s lead and help restore the right of all people, regardless of geography, to earn an honest living.