Limited and Open Government

How Ohio and Utah’s Licensing Portability Laws are Boosting the Economy and Easing the Labor Shortage

Occupational licensing has become a major barrier to entry for many workers in the United States, preventing them from using their skills and experience to make a living. This is especially true for individuals who move to a new state, where they are often required to go through the entire licensing process again, even if they were already licensed in another state. This not only wastes time and money but also keeps qualified individuals out of the workforce, which can have a negative impact on the economy.

Thankfully, some states are taking steps to address this issue. Ohio, for example, recently took a step to make it easier for people who need a license to work to make a living. By signing a bill on January 2, 2023 that recognizes occupational licenses issued by other states, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine reduced the barriers of entry for people already licensed elsewhere to set up shop in Ohio without having to get relicensed. This is not a complete fix for the regulatory burdens occupational licensing poses, but it’s a step in the right direction.

Utah, similarly, is also working to expand licensing portability. The state has seen immense growth in recent years, with people flooding to Utah hoping to experience the state’s beautiful landscapes, take advantage of the amazing recreational opportunities it offers, and participate in the state’s vibrant economy. However, Utah’s restrictive occupational licensing laws may be keeping individuals who are moving to Utah — both internationally and from other states — from using their current skills and experience in the Utah workforce.

Currently, some individuals coming to Utah must gain recertification for a job they were just performing weeks ago in another state or country. This could result in additional time and money spent on obtaining a certification they are already qualified to hold and less time being spent practicing their profession. Senator Curtis Bramble is sponsoring Senate Bill 35 to address this issue. 

Specifically, this legislation will allow for the issuance of an occupational license to a person who has come to Utah internationally or from a different state. Issuing a license to these persons will occur if (1) they have at least one year of experience practicing the licensed occupation and their education experience and skills demonstrate competency, or (2) if their previous jurisdictions’ licensing requirements were substantively similar to those in Utah when their previous license was issued.

Additionally, this legislation creates a pathway for a person who did not previously hold an occupational license to receive one. A person in this scenario could become licensed if it is determined that their education and experience are substantively similar to what is required for that profession in Utah.

Now, this legislative idea may sound familiar. That is because, during Utah’s previous general legislative session, legislation that allowed the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing to issue occupational licenses in this manner passed.

If this year’s bill passes, the following new departments will have access to issuing licenses with this extended level of portability:

  • The Department of Commerce
  • The Department of Environmental Quality
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The Utah State Office of Rehabilitation within the Department of Workforce Services
  • The Labor Commission
  • The Motor Vehicle Enforcement Division within the State Tax Commission
  • The Department of Public Safety
  • The State Board of Education
  • The Department of Transportation

This new piece of legislation expands on last year’s and will continue opening the door for qualified individuals to participate in the state’s workforce, and companies across the state will see an influx of new workers. This will help to alleviate the labor shortage and improve the economy.