Rather than letting principle guide them, too many lawmakers guide their decisions by the ever-unreliable public opinion polls about what they should be doing. This is a terrible way to legislate, and worse for taxpayers at the end of the day, it’s hurting individuals they are supposed to help.
Government often creates barriers to one’s success while simultaneously pulling them down. We live in an overregulated society — one in which too many people are focused on controlled outputs rather than maximizing inputs that lead to higher living standards.
The Obama administration overpromised with “Obamacare” in 2010 while inflicting pain on individuals who needed to keep affordable plans, One-sized anything doesn’t fit all. It doesn’t work in the private sector, nor in government. With a strategic governor and more-than-willing Republican legislature, this past legislative session Arizona became the first state to champion and pass occupational licensing reform.
This isn’t a Republican-only idea because the Obama White House published a paper in July 2015 touting the benefits of occupational licensing reform. This paper served as a framework for policymakers to take it to the states to solve.
Under the old system, people working in professions that required licenses who moved to Arizona had to go through a recertification process that was often time-consuming, very costly and riddled with bureaucratic paperwork. The requirements were a disincentive for people looking to relocate from high tax, overregulated states to consider wielding their trades where we just might need their skilled craft.
Under the new law co-sponsored by myself and several of my Republican colleagues, virtually anyone licensed by another state who has a clean record can open a business or take a job in Arizona without too much difficulty.
More importantly, we want to ensure military spouses and formerly incarcerated individuals can become gainfully employed as quickly as possible without the administrative hoopla. There are special rules for lawyers, who will still have to take the bar exam, and security guards and private investigators, but Arizona hung up an attractive “Help Wanted” banner and is encouraging folks to move to our state.
This is the kind of pro-growth policy governments across the country can replicate for themselves, and other states have expressed interest. Occupational licensing reform breaks down the professional cartels that keep us noncompetitive by removing the government’s stronghold over those who can and who cannot enter a profession.
This limited government measure maximizes the power of people to direct their own economic livelihoods, and I am proud to have been a part of building a better business climate in our state.
Where do we go from here? One idea is to take up the issue of additional licensing reform for the greater good. In Arizona, we made it easier for licensed professionals from other states to move here to work doesn’t address the number of licenses our state still requires.
The costs, or the amount of paperwork involved, are a huge barrier to entry. The nonpartisan Institute for Justice reports the number of workers forced to obtain a license has increased from about one in 20 to one in four over the past 60 years. As a commonsense legislator, that is still far too high if we want to continue to grow our economy.
The process of licensing should be reviewed. Some professions do not require a costly diploma or highly skilled training, but rather an entrepreneurial spirit to create and build a business. The barriers to entry in the marketplace are still too high and need to be reformed.
Many of the occupational licenses currently required are unnecessary and are on the books because a potential competitor hired a powerful lobbyist to block future competition. Cronyism is never a good reason to pass a law.
Governments should promote open and free markets. The Arizona universal recognition law does this in a way in which we can all be proud. I hope other states will follow.
• Shawnna Bolick of Phoenix, Arizona, is a Republican member of the Arizona House of Representatives. Follow her on Twitter: @Bolick4AZ.
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