Occupational Licensing

Occupational Licensing Reform Is a Biden Policy We Can All Favor

Occupational licensing rules are more often arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles than they are protections for health or safety.

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Digging through a modern major-party candidate's proposals for good ideas is like wading into a cesspool in search of treasure; maybe you'll find it, but don't get your hopes up. But Democratic nominee Joe Biden—who looks likely to win the presidential election—actually has a gem hidden amidst a lot of, well, what you'd expect to find in a cesspool: he favors easing occupational licensing requirements. That's not only a good idea, it's a rare bit of wise policy that wins support across the political spectrum.

"Put an end to unnecessary occupational licensing requirements," Biden's campaign website promises, though you have to scroll through a lot of blather about evil corporations and saintly unions to find it. "While licensing is important in some occupations to protect consumers, in many occupations licensing does nothing but thwart economic opportunity. If licensed workers choose to move to new states for higher-paying jobs, they often have to get certified all over again."

Biden isn't a newcomer to occupational licensing reform, either; it's a theme he's maintained through the years and during the course of his presidential campaign.

"Why should someone who braids hair have to get 600 hours of training? It makes no sense," he told a union audience in Pittsburgh last year. "They're making it harder and harder in a whole range of professions, all to keep competition down."

Extra credit to the guy for making the case to organized labor, which isn't generally enthusiastic about reducing barriers to entry for workers.

Biden carries forward his concern about occupational licensing reform from his time as vice president under Barack Obama. Voicing worries about declining labor mobility and disappearing job prospects, the Obama administration produced an in-depth report on the problems posed by requiring people to seek government permission to work in their chosen fields.

"Over the past several decades, the share of U.S. workers holding an occupational license has grown sharply," the report warned. "There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines."

The report went on to note that "over 1,100 occupations are regulated in at least one State, but fewer than 60 are regulated in all 50 States" and that "States also have very different requirements for obtaining a license." The obvious implication is that licensing rules are more often arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles than they are protections for health or safety.

Dedication to encouraging states to ease their licensing rules was among the rare bits of policy continued when Donald J. Trump succeeded Obama as president.

"States must end the practice of excessive licensure," Ivanka Trump tweeted last year. "In 1950 less than 5% of occupations were licensed. Today it is closer to 30%. The Americans hurt the most by this overreaching regulatory regime are those living on the margins, including returning citizens."

Karen Pence, Vice President Mike Pence's wife, has championed reform of occupational licensing rules in her role as an advocate for military families.

"Karen Pence champions occupational licensing reform and recognizes it as a key action to address military spouse employment challenges," the White House announced about her efforts last week. "Today, approximately one third of military spouses work in fields that require a state-issued professional license or certification in order to practice their professions. Additionally, military spouses move on average every two to three years and those frequent moves and state licensing change requirements have led to significant expenses, lost wages, and gaps in employment."

The military-spouses angle gives federal officials a platform on a matter that is normally a matter of state policy. D.C. officials chastising governors and state lawmakers over laws that abuse aspiring entrepreneurs and lower-income job seekers might be interpreted as butting-in, but no elected officials want to be seen as mistreating the military.

That angle has also made occupational licensing reform an example of deregulatory policy that—try not to faint!—both Democrat and Republican officials can like. That's why reform, when it occurs, has been shockingly bipartisan.

"Governor Tom Wolf signed HB 1172 … that cuts bureaucratic red tape to make it easier for new Pennsylvanians, including military spouses, with an out-of-state occupational license to work," the Democratic governor of Pennsylvania boasted in July 2019. "The license could be issued on an individual basis if the licensure requirements in the other state, territory or country are determined to be substantially similar to Pennsylvania's requirements."

"Arizona's licensing boards and commissions will now be required to recognize occupational licenses granted in other states during the licensing process, something already done for spouses of military personnel deployed to Arizona," the Grand Canyon State's Republican Gov. Doug Ducey announced two months later.

That's not to say that every jurisdiction has embraced making it easier for people to work. California stands out for its resistance to making employment easier (although, even there, some modest improvements have passed). But licensing reform has undoubtedly picked up steam as it becomes obvious that making people seek permission to cut hair or decorate homes has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with protecting existing businesses from upstart competitors.

The pandemic has eroded the alleged wisdom of licensing, too, as state and federal officials cooperated to ease rules that prevented health care workers from crossing state lines to provide the same sort of care they offered at home. Red tape that served only to pad established practitioners' bank accounts in good times became obstructionist menaces when a crisis hit.

So, good for Joe Biden for championing a cause that helps people, makes the country freer, and has a chance to win support from partisans of all stripes. Let's hope he spends a lot of time and energy pushing this proposal. Occupational licensing reform may be a rare treasure bobbing in the current political cesspool, but that gives us a place to start.

NEXT: The Presidential Campaign Mercifully Heads Into the Homestretch

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  1. Favored to win in national polls that mean nothing. Not so much in battleground polls and we all know they are low by at least 4% for Trump. Also what does it matter if Biden says something assuming he even gets elected his VP will kick him to the curb no later than mid 2021.

    1. Also what does it matter if Biden says something assuming he even gets elected his VP will kick him to the curb no later than mid 2021.

      And why would you take a party that’s running a corpse that it intends to step over at its word on anything?

      Not that the opposition is the most honest guy there is but, C’mon man!, he’s not propping up a figurehead.

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    2. “we all know they are low by at least 4% for Trump.”

      No we do not all know. Please tells us why, and please go lite on the fertilizer?

      1. Well there is the whole issue of trying to get blue collared working class folks to answer polls widely reported across the spectrum of political media.

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      2. Hillary was +6 in Wisc, Michigan, Penn, Ohio in 2016. What happened election night?

          1. Also: https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/how-trump-might-be-winning/

            Possibly the most startling assertion Cahaly makes is that, by a ratio of as much as five to one, Trump-favoring voters are harder to nail down. The Biden voter is five times as likely to talk to a pollster as the Trump voter. All pollsters are aware of this factor, but Cahaly thinks it has grown in just the last few weeks, when the ratio was more like four to one. Cahaly thinks other pollsters are underestimating this factor.

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    3. Biden is favored by the same cesspool media types that are pushing their propaganda in the home stretch to try to defeat Trump.

      Biden and the Democrat party are for slavery, so any carrots like saying they are for licensing reforms is a lie.

      Democrats did it with weed deregulation. Its was pushed as weed legalization but no Blue state has 100% legal weed like any other product. It was deregulated.

    4. Mid 2022 for the curb kicking, otherwise Harris would only be able to serve one more term as president, vs two full terms if she serves less than 2 years of Biden’s term

    5. That’s USA President Trump didn’t tell his supporters to Target and Run Bidens us and those following it off the Road! That’s just Plain Ridiculous. He would not endanger his campaign like that or risk being arrested for doing such a thing. The ones who did it were being A-holes on their own. Either way, that was Wrong to Do That……Click For Full Detail.

    6. Trump is going to lose Bigly and then turn into a baby and try to weasel his way out of losing, but not even his stacked SCOTUS will be able to prevent his loss.

  2. If Biden favors occupational license reform then it must be a bad thing because everything Democrats support should be opposed on general principle.

    1. You’re so stupid that you thought the sample size of a study was the result, then spent two hours touting your intellect before you ran and hid.

      Shut up and have a seat you clown.

    2. No, sarc. That Biden came up with something that sounds halfway good, doesn’t mean it’s awful. It should make you wonder what the catch is though.

        1. Yes but orangemanbad! In this case if you ignore the opposition position and the actions of Biden over the last 47 years you can find something decent he proposes to ignore once elected.

        2. The article covers that, but the headline makes it sound like it originates in the Biden campaign.

          He’s trying to fix his campaign. Licensing reform is big with minorities and he is hemmoraging minorities

      1. ” It should make you wonder what the catch is though.” Neither the President nor Congress has any power to change these _state_ laws, so this is either blather about something Biden is never going to affect, or a lead-in to further erosion of the Constitution.

    3. “[E]verything Democrats support should be opposed on general principle.”

      My Democrat congressional members support looking both ways before crossing the street, eating good meals, and lots of fresh air.

      1. Could you persuade them to do otherwise when making choices for themselves?

  3. If you think Biden occupational license reform is what you would expect I have a bridge to sell you. His reform will entail more buracracy to prove you are what you are in order to not have to be licensed. Prime example in my county certain structures do not require a permit to be built but they do require a permit to be a non permitted structure.

    1. The federal government has no Constitutionally-allowed role in occupational licensing.

      States should have no role either, but that’s another matter.

      1. “The federal government has no Constitutionally-allowed role in occupational licensing.”

        Like that matters anymore. General Welfare and ‘affects Interstate Commerce,’ bro.

        1. If the USA is ever going to stop falling into despair; it SHOULD matter.

      2. I think the barriers to transferring license could be considered interstate commerce but yeah the federal government has little recourse. Possibly a 14A case if disparate impact??? Or licensing for one industry that focuses more on minority customers where a similar industry for whites doesn’t require licensing?
        It is good both Trump and Biden are talking about it, however, neither really have power to do anything directly. On the other hand they could go the route the feds did to get all states to enforce 55 mph speed limits, 21 yo drinking age and the way they forced Alaska to criminalize marijuana (before they decriminalized it again).

        1. Note I am not in favor of blackmailing states to do what the feds want.

    2. Biden has had plenty of opportunity do something about occupational license reform at the federal level.

      Historically speaking, if you want to know what a candidate will not do when elected, you can look at what they say will do while campaigning.

  4. How will a President Biden affect intrastate commerce? Next you are going to tell me that Biden is going to improve my school district by federally mandating more multiple choice tests

    1. He will mandate that all students get the same grade, and only state run schools with unionized teachers are allowed to exist.

  5. Since it’s a state issue, Biden can ‘favor’ it without any trouble.

    1. He could support and sign a federal law that limits what licensing states are allowed to do. This might even be allowed by the constitution under the actual meaning of the commerce clause since it is directed at states and not individuals.

      1. So, in your view, a narrow reading of the commerce clause would grant the federal government power to affirmatively prohibit states from regulating commerce within the state?

        1. Best case federally is requiring licenses from one state to be transferrable with minimal requirements. Then of course there is the real world…

          1. Or States could license on factors of a NON-GOV competency agency as some already do. Which is how it should’ve been done ALL ALONG. WTF do politicians know about the field of license anyways.

      2. “some guy” said….
        Eh, just “some guy”

        Damn it, that’s a great handle.

  6. Too bad it’s a state issue, nothing Biden could do anything about. Trump’s already achieved quite a bit in terms of federal deregulation. What’s Biden got to say about that?

  7. >>who looks likely to win the presidential election

    gracias for the larf.

  8. So, good for Joe Biden for championing a cause that helps people, makes the country freer, and has a chance to win support from partisans of all stripes.

    Joe Biden: Champion of Freedom

    1. unreason is in the home stretch in their delusion for Biden winning before they know they will be crying their eyes out when Trump gets reelected.

  9. Surrender everything for maybe occupational licensing reform

    1. +100000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

      Democrats lied about making weed 100% legal. Marijuana was only deregulated in Blue states. Even Democrat controlled House never put forward a bill to repeal the Controlled substances Act.

  10. A democrat that wants more federal regulation of state issues?
    What a shock.

    1. To me this seems to be the kind of regulation that was actually intended by the commerce clause.

      1. I’m not so sure. Congress might have the regulatory power to compel states to allow transfer of occupational licenses from one state to another, but that’s about it. The commerce clause state that Congress has the power “to regulate commerce…AMONG the several states,” not WITHIN them.

        1. Precisely.

          More regulation =/= less regulation.

        2. There is also the “full faith and credit” clause – but Biden and Obama did nothing about this when they were in the White House with majorities in Congress, so why expect them to do anything now?

    2. ^That was my first response — The history of Democrats doesn’t fit the proposal; thus it must be solely adding the ability to throw federal government MORE into places it doesn’t belong.

  11. That would be great if the old fucker were running for governor somewhere. But since occupational licensing is an almost entirely state issue and Biden is running for President, his declared opposition to it means exactly jack and shit.

    A cynical person might conclude that Joe has chosen to be opposed to occupational licensing precisely because it is a state issue and something he knows he can have little or no effect upon should he become President. It is a way to appear to be against government regulation safe in the knowledge that his support will never amount to anything but kind words.

    1. Couldn’t he sign a bill that regulates what licensing states are allowed to do and how they’re allowed to do it? It seems like this is exactly the kind of thing the commerce clause was actually put in the Constitution for.

      1. Could he sign a bill? Yes.

        Would that law be constitutional? Likely not.

      2. Commerce clause generally apply to things that can cross state lines. I believe Scalia was against CA medical pot invoking the commerce clause on the basis it could be bought in CA then carried across state lines. If you can’t use your license in another state, it’s not really a commerce clause issue.

      3. Could he sign a bill, yes but since he does not pass the bills congress does and as the house has shown no sign that they are for licensing reform and in fact have made statements to the opposite effect the possibility of a bill making it to the president’s desk are slim to none. So yeah this is a feel good statement that has zero effect on actual occupational licensing reform.

      4. Actually the commerce Claude is specifically designed to keep one state from barring commerce from another state. It is not designed to allow the federal government to control commerce within the states border. About the only thing, under the commerce clause, you might be able to make the argument for (without stretching out its meaning beyond recognition) is the transfer of license from out of state citizens. And the few cases were the federal courts have struck down state occupational licensing laws has been those that placed obviously discriminatory rules barring people moving into a state from getting a license (not based upon educational hours or fees, but laws that banned a person for some period of time from even applying for a license after moving into the state). And even those were decided under the 14A, not the commerce clause.

    2. We have a dry-run of Biden’s licensing reform bona fides at the Federal Level; see the “Dear Colleagues,” letter.

      Whether he was conscious of it or not, he practically made every sexual encounter on college campuses everywhere illegally unlicensed activities.

      When he says he’s going to roll back licensing reform, at best he means something like he’s going to give the EEOC free reign to eyeball every license in every state to make sure minorities aren’t being discriminated against and eliminate licenses as they see fit. If that means everybody, including minorities, has to wait twice as long to get fewer licenses or that they suddenly discover the licenses they applied for won’t be issued or don’t mean dick, well, that’s just how equality works.

      1. roll back licensing reform

        roll *out* licensing reform

    3. Its Democrat lies to virtue signal to idiot undecideds who might fall for it.

  12. Funny that you have 5 different links to “bipartisan” deregulation and all 5 of them go to things that have come about only in the last couple of years. Wasn’t Biden Vice-President for 8 years? What did he actually do about over-regulation in those 8 years, versus what he’s talking about doing? It’s kinda like what Trump’s talking about – Biden’s been in government for 47 years and now suddenly he’s talking about what he’s going to do? What the fuck have you been doing for 47 years, Joe?

    1. “”What the fuck have you been doing for 47 years, Joe?””

      Getting rich as a public servant.

  13. Who gives a shit what Joe Biden says he favors licensing reform but, more importantly, what does Kamala Harris say about it?

    Moreover, if the party is willing to run Joe as a stalking horse for Harris, what makes you think they give a shit about anything they put up on their website? The man gave them 47 yrs. of his life and they’re pretty openly admitting that they’ll step over his corpse to put someone else in the White House.

    1. Has Biden actually said anything about this subject in public, or is just policy wonk pornography buried deep in his website.

      Here could be an interesting trial balloon. How about requiring reciprocal state licensing of medical doctors? If that works out, we can move on to the lawyers.

  14. I don’t recall the Obama/Biden administration doing anything to reduce occupational licensing during their eight years.

    Tuccille and Reason will write anything to help Biden win.

    1. These hacks are going to have a real tough time when Trump wins, just like they did in 2016.

    2. Anyone who believes what candidates say is blowing smoke up their own ass. I have to wonder how old you are if you believe them because anyone who has been around long enough should know better.

    3. The other part is that most of the examples in the story are from Republicans, yet the lead is about Biden

    1. Most of the substance of that statement was wanting felons to be able to get licenses, and immigrant doctors.

      They want to reduce the rules, but not eliminate the licensing entirely.

    2. Obama/Biden issued that press release in June 2016, the last year of their administration, when Hillary was running against Trump.

  15. “we all know they are low by at least 4% for Trump.”

    No we do not all know. Please tells us why, and please go lite on the fertilizer?

    1. I wish unreason would tell us if this counts toward the quota of Biden “bad” articles to counter the utter Orangeman bad tirades the staff have had for 3.5 years.

  16. “Occupational licensing rules are more often arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles than they are protections for health or safety.”

    Yes they are.

    You know what they are not?

    They are not within the Federal government purview.

    Reason ‘libertarians’ for POTUS power grabs. Sometimes

  17. “Occupational licensing rules are more often arbitrary bureaucratic hurdles than they are protections for health or safety.”
    Minor nit, you spelled “always” wrong.

  18. Sooo, what power does a President have to impact local occupational licensing rules? Zero.

  19. Single Mom With 4 Kids Lost Her Job and…READ MORE

  20. For the love of Pete! This isn’t a news piece it’s a campaign piece. “I know he’s shit, but look: he mentioned my pet project!”

    Does anyone know what the word nuance means? Some subjects are very broad and require inspection of the DETAILS before a decision can be made. It’s mind boggling that an author at a site called REASON would use broad macro-level statistics to justify a sweeping policy (ban occupational licensing) that could literally cause death.

    I HATE government intervention in my life. But I also HATE the idea of letting every tom, dick and jane being able to claim something that is potentially dangerous. Yes, hair braiding is the extreme end of that spectrum but sweeping policy based on the odd extreme case is bad policy.

    1. For the most part those dangerous fields such as medicine, pharmacy, airline pilots, and so on are self regulated. The government just stamps the forms and charges a fee. I am OK with having some level of oversight in the interest of public safety.

      What is really happening is the massage therapists in Ohio don’t want competition from the massage therapists from California.

  21. Who cares what Biden says? Biden will say whatever it takes to get elected, and then he will do whatever his handlers tell him to do.

  22. Occupational licensing is vital to our economy. It creates well paying government jobs for occupational licensers and the folks who license the licensers.

    Next thing you know there will be calls to eliminate the ministries of pets, fishing, firearms, baking, and chalk drawing on the sidewalk while clicking your heels licensing.

  23. Perhaps we should have occupational licensing for politicians. They should be required to pass a test, show themselves to be of good moral character, be vetted and have a background check. Then they could run for office.

  24. Single Mom With 4 Kids Lost Her Job but the …READ MORE

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  26. For novices to this issue: these licenses are “additional” to a basic business license required for tax purposes or for customers to vet potential contractors. Proper insurance – also a form regulation – is also required and can be verified by customers.

    If it’s not explicitly an issue of physical safety, there are ample ways for customers to hold contractor’s accountable. Customer referrals, many times are not allowed in obtaining an occupational license nor is a simple competency test. Instead of citizen boards (consumers), many state legislatures appoint your private competitors to staff the occupational licensing boards – a clear conflict of interest.

    In other words, in some states, you could for example have 20 years of house-painting experience – only using non-lead or non-toxic paint – with over 100 satisfied customers to attest to your ability, but it’s illegal to paint or caulk without working for a competitor for up to 2 years. A great house-painter would have to close down their business and go to work for a competitor for up to 2 years. Customer referrals (under legal affidavits) are not allowed and you are not allowed to perform a competency test to prove your abilities. These schemes only harm consumers by removing from healthy competition, which lowers prices while improving services and products.

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