They didn’t agree on much, but one policy issue where the Obama and Trump administrations agreed was the need for states to re-examine their systems of occupational licensing.
Many states across the country have heeded that call and taken steps to do that. But not here in California.
Last week, Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia signed a “Universal Licensure Bill” which will allow workers in 85 different occupational categories from anywhere in the country who have been licensed to work in other state and have performed licensed work for three years to work in Virginia without having to go through the headache of trying to get licensed in Virginia as well. “Universal license recognition will assist in resolving worker shortages while at the same time benefiting consumers through reduced costs of goods and services,” said Gov. Youngkin.
Likewise, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu last month called for the elimination of licensing requirements for 34 occupations, reforms to state licensing boards and universal recognition for workers already licensed out-of-state. This proposal was included as part of Gov. Sununu’s budget proposal in which he affirmed a commitment to “breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry to do business here.”
All of these states are following the lead of California’s neighbor, Arizona. In 2019, then-Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law, with bipartisan support, legislation implementing universal occupational license recognition. Already, over 6,500 licensed workers from other states have taken the opportunity to get their licenses recognized in Arizona,
“Over 400 physicians and 170 physician assistants have been safely licensed by the Arizona Medical Board,” noted the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute last month. “The state’s Registrar of Contractors has approved over 2,200 licenses for numerous occupations in the trades. Thousands of additional workers have benefitted from universal recognition, including hundreds of behavioral health examiners and numerous engineers, cosmetologists, and real estate agents and brokers, among many others.”
A report by the Common Sense Institute estimated the law could benefit Arizona’s gross domestic product by at least least $1.5 billion over time.
None of this is particularly earth-shattering. But it’s something that California continues to drag its feet on. California has long had one of the most extensive and onerous licensing systems in the country, with predictable consequences.
As the state’s own nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission has noted, one-in-five California require a license to work. Licensing, according to the commission, “slows growth in those occupations, inhibits interstate movement, and acts as a barrier to many looking for upward job mobility.”
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In 2018, the Institute for Justice estimated that California’s system of licensing costs the state 195,917 jobs and billions in reduced economic output and misallocated resources.That same year, the Archbridge Institute found that increased government licensing of low- and middle-income jobs was associated with reduced economic mobility and reduced job pools.
California should at the very least undertake a comprehensive review of which occupations are currently licensed by government boards. If there’s no serious public health or safety justification for licensing, the state should drop licensing requirements. If a worker is licensed out-of-state, it should be really easy for that worker to work here. It’s a pro-worker, pro-consumer, pro-liberty approach California could easily take if it wanted to. Which means…it probably won’t happen for a while.
Sal Rodriguez can be reached at email@example.com