For the past couple of years, occupational licensing reform has been a hot topic for state legislatures and both the Obama and Trump Administrations. Whether it's stories of hair stylists suing cosmetology boards over the regulatory burden placed on individuals struggling to make a living or the risk one assumes by hiring an unlicensed interior designer, lawmakers and the public have been asking tough questions on what problems exist in the current structure and where states are moving on the issue.
Since the 1950s, the percent of occupations covered by licensure has grown from 5 percent to more than 25 percent of the American workforce, with certain states as high 33 percent of its workforce. While critics believe occupational licensure acts as a “burdensome permission slip” from the government to make a living, those in favor argue licensure provides a way to set minimum quality and safety standards.
In 2018, 14 states enacted 19 laws to reform either the state's requirements or procedures to obtain an occupational license. While most states enacted bills reducing the requirements and regulations of licenses, some reform efforts focus on addressing concerns certain demographics face when acquiring a license.
Among the states that conducted general reform to licensing requirements, Nebraska's bill (NE LB 299) set in place broad changes in reducing requirements for licenses by establishing a five-year review window for all state licensing laws and regulations. Similarly, a pair of Virginia bills (VA SB 20 and VA HB 883) set a three-year pilot program for the Virginia Department of Planning and Budget to reduce compliance costs and requirements of occupational licenses by 25 percent.
Applying Military Experience Towards Licensing Requirements
While some of the general reform bills have clauses for military personnel, Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Utah, and Virginia all enacted specific legislation this session that would make relevant experience in the military transferable to a given occupation's licensing requirements. One of the bills streamlining occupational licensing requirements for military personnel singled out spouses who obtained a license in another state. Legislation enacted in Alabama (AL HB 388) would allow military spouses with licenses in states with lesser requirements than the state to apply training requirements towards a temporary license in the state.
Reforming Requirements for those with Criminal Backgrounds
As states also conduct criminal justice reform broadly, Delaware, Indiana, and Tennessee have addressed the difficulties of obtaining certain licenses with a criminal record by loosening requirements for those individuals. In March, Delaware Governor John Carney (D) signed legislation (DE HB 97) in law that will remove restrictions from individuals with criminal records to obtain a license in cosmetology, barbering, electrology, nail technology, or aesthetics.