Since the Trump administration directed the Labor Department to review occupational licensing laws around the country last year, the Arizona Legislature passed legislation addressing needed reforms to these laws. Because Arizona ranks fourth in the nation for most burdensome occupational licensing laws, these reforms were long overdue. I supported these efforts to get unnecessary government regulations out of the way of individuals’ path to economic prosperity.
While not given as much attention as some bills passed, occupational licensing reform is critical to many of our citizens. These laws define how many hours of training someone is required to have before they can participate in a trade, such as cosmetology, barbering, and even door repair. Often these jobs have unreasonably high barriers to entry, making it especially difficult for individuals in rural areas of our state to clear the financial and geographic hurdles necessary to engage in their chosen profession.
This is simply unfair, and I applaud Gov. Doug Ducey for seeing the hypocrisy of runaway occupational licensing and acting to reverse it. Among his first acts reforming occupational licensing was to issue an executive order to all boards that certify licensees to report their minimum requirements for obtaining a license. If those boards have requirements in excess of the national average, they must submit a report that contains “specifically citing potential harm to individuals in our state.”
Following this, the Legislature passed the Right To Earn A Living Act, which restricts Arizona’s regulatory boards from issuing regulations that limit the entry into a profession or trade unless they can be shown to be necessary to the health, safety, and welfare of Arizonans.
We should not expect low income and rural citizens to be barred from entering a profession of their choice simply because the licensing boards, made up of practitioners of the trade who fear competition, want to bar them with unreasonable requirements.
This practice is inherently anti-free market. As consumers, we should be encouraging people to get in these trades because it will give us a wider variety of choice and drive market competition. Taxpayers currently float the bill for enforcing these exclusory policies, while those practitioners’ operating businesses benefit from an easy lack of competition by enforcing the restrictive entry requirements.
There is yet another angle that also affects taxpayers. Some of the job-seekers in these professions are ex-offenders, looking for opportunity in a trade of their choice. But with barriers to entry comes unintended consequences for these individuals. States with heavy occupational licensing burdens saw an average increase in three-year, new-crime recidivism of more than 9 percent between 1997 and 2007. By contrast, states with lower occupational licensing burdens saw an average decline in recidivism of nearly 2.5 percent. We should be encouraging people to seek out honest labor, not to return to the paths that led them to incarceration in the first place.
Arizona has made great strides in addressing occupational licensing reform, but much more work is needed. It’s time to rein in uncompetitive and unfair occupational licenses.
— Rep. Becky Nutt, R-Clifton, represents Legislative District 14, which also includes Sierra Vista, Willcox and Safford
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.