Arizona is Promoting Economic Liberty Through Occupational Licensing Reform

The Right to Earn a Living Act, along with additional occupational licensing reform, will reduce barriers to the workforce and create economic opportunity and liberty.


“Just because somebody packs up that moving van in Chicago, Illinois, they don’t lose their skills on the way to the state of Arizona. Why should somebody have to suffer the burden of thousands of dollars or weeks or months of re-certification in a skill that they already have?” argued Arizona Governor Doug Ducey in referring to the need to reform his state’s occupational licensing laws.  The Arizona legislature is considering legislation that “would allow anyone who already holds an occupational license in one state to be automatically eligible for a license to practice the same occupation in Arizona.” Some additional aspects of the bill include a criminal background check and reciprocity for out-of-state licenses for military families.

The Institute for Justice ranks Arizona as one of the worst states for occupational licensing.  On average Arizona requires “$455 in fees, 599 days — more than one-and-a-half years — in education and experience and two exams, as well as grade and age requirements.  It also licenses 64 occupations.”

The legislation under consideration would begin the process of reversing burdensome occupational licensing. The measure would still require fees and examinations if applicable, but it provides an economic incentive for both individuals and the state. “One benefit of this measure is obvious: it would allow people from other states to integrate quickly into the work force, saving them a lot of costs in the process. That leads to another benefit that is somewhat less obvious: more competition in Arizona’s licensed occupations, which means lower prices for consumers,” wrote David R. Henderson, who is a research fellow and economist with the Hoover Institution.

This legislation will continue Governor Ducey’s efforts at reforming Arizona’s occupational licensing laws. In 2017, Governor Ducey issued an executive order that requires licensing boards to review requirements and fees. In addition to the executive order, Governor Ducey signed the Right to Earn a Living Act, which restricts “state boards from issuing any new occupational licensing rules that can’t be justified on health and safety grounds.”

The Right to Earn a Living Act is an additional protection for workers, because if the state or board “wants to restrict a person’s right to earn an honest living, the burden is on the government, not the job-seeker, to prove that the restriction is appropriate.” Governor Ducey recently strengthened this law that will “require state licensing boards to notify people of their right to challenge an adverse action…”

Jon Riches, who serves as Goldwater Institute’s Director of National Litigation, described the impact of this reform when he stated:

In most professions, job-seekers shouldn’t have to seek out government permission in order to work in the field of their choice. Rather, the government should be tasked with proving that licensing requirements actually protect the public before restricting a person’s right to earn a living. Arizona’s Right to Earn a Living Act puts that burden of proof where it should be: on the government. And now, Arizonans can be sure that they will know their rights under this law and be better able to work in the field of their choice when their rights have been denied.

Other states should consider the occupational licensing reform measures that are taking place in states such as Arizona, Nebraska, and Ohio, among others. Reforming burdensome occupational licensing laws will not only create more economic opportunities for citizens, but also result in greater economic liberty. A growing workforce is a priority for most states and occupational licensing reform is one policy that will work toward creating more opportunities for job seekers.  The goal of public policy should be to remove barriers and not create roadblocks to benefit special interests.

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