Free Market

A conversation about occupational licensing with Governor Cox

“Occupational licensing creep is a real thing” – Governor Spencer Cox. 

Occupational licensing regulation has frequently created anti-worker sentiment. Its stringent requirements have made it difficult for workers to change careers, follow passions, move across states, and generally better themselves. 

These consequences are being recognized. On Tuesday (June 7, 2022) morning, the R Street Institute hosted a panel to discuss occupational licensing legislation. The keynote speaker of this discussion was Utah Governor Spencer Cox. 

During the conversation, Governor Cox expressed how his time as a lawyer created his budding interest in occupational licensing. The Governor also highlighted how a couple who he was friends with opened his eyes to the ridiculousness of many licensing regulations. One member of this couple was pursuing a career as a pilot, while the other was attending cosmetology school. This couple relayed to Governor Cox that the individual attending cosmetology school faced more licensing regulations than the individual pursuing pilotry. 

This conversation with Utah’s governor is a positive one. It demonstrates that one of the most influential politicians in the state is concerned about the consequences of licensing. Such concern will hopefully ignite additional applaudable licensing reform from the governor’s office and motivate the state legislature to more aggressively pursue licensing reform.

Outside of the governor, this panel also discussed future directions of occupational licensing reform. Highlighted as a bipartisan issue, panelists see future reform efforts being directed at refugees, those with criminal records, and low-income individuals. These groups are disproportionately affected by occupational licensing reform as it severely hampers their ability to boost their socioeconomic standings. 

Specific legislative actions gaining traction in this realm include international licensing reciprocity, universal recognition, privatized licensing boards, and telehealth reform. These policies are explained in more detail below:

  • International licensing reciprocity refers to the idea that an individual licensed in a profession outside of the United States could move to a state and continue to practice that profession without needing to be re-licensed. 
  • Universal recognition is a similar idea that hinges on the notion that a person can move to a different state and have that state automatically recognize their license as valid. This policy also bypasses re-licensure.
  • The private licensing boards would make licensing optional. If a professional wanted the credential of a license, they would have the option to obtain it through a private board. If they do not want to obtain a license, an individual could still practice an occupation without calling themselves a licensed individual in that field. 
  • Telehealth reform would focus on making telehealth services more accessible. It would allow care providers to see patients from states outside of their licensed state without running into red tape. 

These policies must be pursued both within Utah and across the country if supply-side progressivism and free-market principles are to prevail.