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How Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is breaking barriers in occupational licensing 

Dec 4, 2019 by AFP

A 2017 study found that in Texas it takes 10 times longer to become a cosmetologist or barber than an emergency medical technician because of occupational licensing requirements.

If licensing requirements are actually meant to protect the public, then that doesn’t make much sense.

But that’s the truth behind occupational licensing: A growing body of research suggests that licensing imposes substantial costs that outweigh the purported benefits.

Led by Gov. Greg Abbott, Texas is taking strides to break down those barriers.

In October, according to the Texas Tribune, the governor directed state agencies to:

  • Rollback unnecessary licensing requirements.
  • Reduce fees associated with occupational licensure to 75% or less of the national average for comparable occupations.
  • Reduce educational requirements for certain occupations.
  • Remove restrictions for formerly incarcerated individuals where appropriate.

The agencies were told to deliver their plans to the governor before year’s end.

“Reforming Texas’s occupational-licensing rules must be a priority for all state leaders,” Gov. Abbott wrote in a letter to agency heads. “Overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity. Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed — or former inmates who have paid their debt to society — from building a better life.”

He’s right — and his approach is a monumental step in the right direction. But it’s not the only way officials can tackle this important issue.

Several ways states can enact structural, comprehensive licensing reform include:

  • Create sunrise and sunset review provisions for all licenses.
  • Require the attorney general or legislature to provide active supervision over licensing boards to ensure that the least-restrictive measures are used to address valid health and safety concerns.
  • Consider removing “good moral character requirements” banning formerly incarcerated individuals from obtaining an occupational license (when the crime has nothing to do with the respective profession).

Other governors should build on the momentum Gov. Abbott is creating and seize the opportunity to help people improve their lives.