Creating Opportunity by Removing Barriers

An excerpt from Growing Iowa's Economy - A Blueprint for Free-Market Solutions

The ability for Iowans, as well as those who relocate to Iowa, to earn a living will be greatly improved due to 2020’s historic occupational licensing reforms passed by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Kim Reynolds. Those reforms allow for universal recognition of out-of-state licenses, waive licensing fees for low-income individuals, and establish a standard for a fairer review process if a license is denied based on past criminal convictions. Reforming occupational licensing expands liberty and makes Iowa a more competitive state.

Removing career barriers should not stop with 2020’s improvements, but also include a regular review process for occupational licenses and licensing boards. While protecting the health and welfare of the public is important, these licenses and boards must not restrict the ability for an individual to earn a living.

In reviewing licenses and boards, policymakers should consider both sunrise and sunset measures. Existing licenses and boards should be subject to a sunset provision that would require the legislature to periodically review the need for a specific license or board, and the existing guidelines. Any new license or board should also be subject to a sunrise provision, which would require a review to make sure that the proposed license or board is needed and does not restrict occupational freedom.

Iowa’s neighbors in Nebraska have developed a blueprint for these review processes. Nebraska’s system does not imply that all licenses should be repealed, nor does it recommend a “free-for-all” economy. The Nebraska model simply requires that an occupational license is reviewed every five years by the appropriate legislative committee. The legislative committees are tasked with reviewing occupational regulations and issuing a report that recommends “ending, modifying, or maintain(ing) these regulations.”

The review “must include information on the number of licenses issued or denied by the board being reviewed, an examination of the basic assumptions underlying the board’s powers, and a comparison of what other states do in similar occupations.”

The Nebraska legislation declares that an individual’s right to pursue work is a “fundamental right” and that the “state should use the least restrictive means to protect the public when regulating an occupation.”

Further reforming occupational licensing will create opportunities for Iowans and make our state more attractive for workers and employers.