Scottsdale Republic: ‘Let them work’

March 01, 2019 | By CALEB TROTTER

This originally appeared in the Scottsdale Republic March 1, 2019.

A growing chorus of policymakers, scholars, and commentators has raised concerns about the increasing number of burdensome occupational licensing laws in the United States. Indeed, nearly a third of Americans must now get the government’s permission before working in their chosen profession.

But in Arizona, many state leaders are saying “enough is enough” when it comes to occupational licensing. These clear-eyed policymakers are asking tough questions about why so many occupational licenses are required, and why the burden and expense of licensing so frequently falls on low-income workers who can least afford it. It’s a timely debate.

Arizona policymakers have made progress in removing the state’s unnecessary and burdensome barriers to work. But much work remains to make the state a leader in creating economic opportunity for all who live within its borders.

For example, in 2011, Arizona enacted a law that allows spouses of military members stationed in Arizona to receive reciprocity from Arizona for their occupational license earned in another state. That common-sense reform allows qualified workers to continue in their profession without having to undergo training and examinations already successfully completed in another state simply because the military required the couple to move.

It was also smart politics, because it led to a pressing question: if we can loosen unnecessary licensing requirements for military families, why not for everybody? To expand that reform to most license- and certificate-holders who relocate to Arizona, HB 2569 was recently introduced by Rep. Warren Petersen with the support of Gov. Doug Ducey. The bill takes a big step toward substantial reform of duplicative work requirements that make Arizona an unwelcoming destination for professionals and tradesmen considering a move to the Grand Canyon State.

HB 2569 allows a person to receive an occupational license to work in Arizona so long as: (1) upon establishing residency in Arizona they have been licensed by another state in the same discipline and at the same practice level for at least one year; (2) they have not been disciplined in another state for professional misconduct, and there are no pending complaints against the person; (3) the person previously passed an examination if required by the original licensing state; (4) the person met minimum training or experience requirements before receiving their original license; (5) they do not have a disqualifying criminal history; and (6) they pay all required fees.

Clearly, then, HB 2569 accomplishes the purported consumer protection goals of occupational licensing in general, while simultaneously removing unnecessary barriers for already licensed individuals to relocate to Arizona. As such, it’s a welcome and substantial improvement to the status quo.

However, lawmakers could still go further to remove unnecessary government red tape.

For example, Arizona requires licenses to work in a number of professions that most states do not deem necessary to license. So if you work in one of the majority of states that don’t require licenses for landscape contractors, sign language interpreters, opticians, animal breeders, or taxidermists, for instance, then you’re in for an unpleasant surprise upon moving to Arizona. Even if you’ve successfully worked in your profession for years without a single customer complaint, then you still may be required to undergo expensive and time-consuming training and examinations to continue your trade in Arizona.

This remaining regulatory barrier could be removed by allowing a practitioner from a state that declines to license their profession to submit a verified work history in the field in order to meet experience, training, and knowledge requirements in Arizona, and provide references to confirm the person’s competency for their profession or trade.

Gov. Ducey offered a vigorous call to action for licensing reform in his 2019 State of the State speech: “If people want to work, let’s let them work! 100,000 people will move here this year. There’s a job available for every one of them. Lots of them are trained and certified in other states. Standing in their way of earning a living in Arizona, our own licensing boards, and their cronies who tell them: ‘You can’t work here. You haven’t paid the piper.’”

“Let’s let them work,” indeed. HB 2569 will make Arizona a more welcoming state to qualified workers considering a move. Arizonans interested in having more choices in capable service providers will benefit from this change.

Caleb R. Trotter is an attorney at Pacific Legal Foundation.