This problem has developed as occupational licensure laws have escaped scrutiny and review.
Left unchecked and without review, these laws have become too broad in scope and unclear in their requirements. This has created several issues.
Occupational licenses are meant to protect the consumer by weeding out those who are not qualified for a particular occupation. This, in theory, will only leave highly skilled and qualified workers to fulfill consumer needs.
However, occupational licenses fail to protect the consumer because often they are gained through an unclear process that is not representative of an individual’s qualifications.
Just look at Jeff McNeil, a general contractor and entrepreneur. Jeff worked as a fully licensed residential general contractor for 34 years, but when he wanted to make the switch to commercial construction he was denied a commercial contractor’s license due to a lack of experience.
Denying this licensure to someone who had been a general contractor for over three decades due to a lack of experience is outrageous. Denying those like Jeff only hurts consumers as every time someone qualified is denied an occupational license, consumers have one less choice to perform a needed task.
Another problem created through unchecked occupational licensing is the expansion of economic protectionism. Industries will lobby for occupational licenses simply because it makes entrance into their industry more exclusive, allowing industry members to charge higher prices. Economic protectionism hurts the economy and completely neglects the purpose of occupational licenses — the health and safety of the public.
These consequences illustrate why it is essential to have a group that has the objective of scrutinizing occupational licensing laws. Utah can no longer have occupational licensing laws that are unreasonably expensive, largely unclear, and don’t help the public.
Fortunately, Utah’s Legislature has taken an important first step in creating such a group — The Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Office. A bill that would establish this office has unanimously passed the state’s Business and Labor Interim Committee.
This newly proposed office builds on Governor Cox’s first executive order — which called for a review of all occupational licenses to ensure they are necessary — and marks how change is coming to Utah’s professional licensing procedures.
The Occupational and Professional Licensure Review Office will conduct a review for each application that seeks to newly regulate an occupation, review each occupation that requires a license at least once every ten years, and review and respond to legislative inquiries over occupational licensing matters.
The creation of this office will help eliminate unnecessary licenses and work to give power back to the market when deciding if someone is qualified enough for a position. This is exciting as the free market can provide a better indication of competency within a profession.
For example, try to think of the last time you checked your hairdresser’s occupational license, or even cared that they had one? The answer is that you probably never have. Instead, when deciding where to get your hair done, you have most likely relied on reviews — either from friends, family, or the internet.
Additionally, this office will ensure that licenses are relevant and up to speed with workforce needs and will set up long-term reform in the field of occupational licenses. As an avenue for a more predictable and stable process for licensing reform, this proposed office has a vital function.
This legislation comes at a time when in Utah having a government-issued permission slip determines if you are allowed to work in over 300 professions. If you don’t hold one of these permission slips, you cannot get hired.
If this legislation is passed, occupational licensing that prevents Utah from growing its dynamic and productive workforce will be diminished.
Libertas applauds Governor Cox and the Utah Legislature for putting Utah on the right path towards reforming its occupational licensing. Reform efforts to lessen the scope of these permission slips will increase Utah’s economic competitiveness and drastically improve the lives of Utahns.
Ben Shelton is a policy fellow at Libertas Institute.