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Idaho continues efforts to reform occupational licensing

As a child, I moved across the country a handful of times. One of my memories when moving was watching my dad find all of the paperwork and pay the fees to transfer his occupational licensing for veterinary medicine. Each move meant time and money needed to be set aside to meet the slightly different veterinary licenses in each state. To my younger self, it didn’t make any sense why he needed to repeat a license for a job he had proven competency in for years.

 

Now as an adult, it still doesn’t make any sense and I’ve realized that state-specific, non-universal occupational licensing exists in 22% of professions and has grown over the last few decades, from 5% in the 1950s.

 

Why? It has nothing to do with the quality of service or requests from consumers. In many situations these are industry-created artificial barriers to entry, limiting competition in the market. Occupational licensing does the reverse of its promises: decreasing the quality of service, increasing prices, decreasing employment, and frequently having a disproportionate effect on low to middle-income earners.

 

A frequent example of occupational licensing harm can be found among hair braiders. Many states have required hair braiders to attend cosmetology school. Except, with the glaring oversight that cosmetology school doesn’t teach the braiding profession. Thankfully, many of the braiding licensing requirements have been overturned in recent years but while they existed they caused unnecessary economic harm to many families.

 

Idaho has joined the occupational licensing reform movement by adopting the wide-sweeping Senate Bill 1351, signed into law in 2020. The act established a sunrise review process, established a procedure for universal licensure, and eased licensing barriers for people with criminal records. However, two bills in this year’s legislative session indicate that occupational licensing reform is still needed in the state of Idaho.

 

House Bill 647 would streamline the cumbersome process of continuing education requirements for licensees. The bill also directs the licensing authorities to eliminate or change the continuing education requirements that are not in compliance with the bill’s intent of easing barriers to entry. It is currently waiting on hearing in the House Business Committee.

 

The second reform, HB 393, gained traction in the House Health and Welfare Committee and was able to pass the House. House Bill 393 would facilitate Idaho’s participation in the interstate practice of licensed professional counselors. Currently, counselors are unable to work with any client outside of state lines, even if their clients are traveling and experiencing a crisis. Many states have already adopted legislation that would allow interstate licensing.


These interstate licensing procedures allow needed guidelines to remain in place with higher-risk professions. Health professions are some of the few occupational licensing requirements where the benefit of licensure justifies the associated cost. HB 393 would allow licensing to remain in place, strengthening the intention of SB 1351’s universal licensing attempt. HB 393 is awaiting a vote in the Senate.

 

Idaho’s reform efforts are gaining traction in increasing jobs and upward professional mobility, decreasing prices, and creating economic gains. There is still room for improvement as Idaho ranked #28 nationally (#1 was the highest burden) in the number of occupations requiring licensure.

Occupational licensing reform doesn’t argue for poor service from any profession but recognizes that consumers encourage better quality through reviews and choice than the quality licensure creates. Many professions are better served by utilizing voluntary programs, removing unneeded licenses, and relying on service review websites like Yelp and Angie. Even the American Veterinary Medical Association is recognizing the hassles and costs of state-specific licensure and is looking for better practices.

 

A life-changing event, like moving or employment changes, doesn’t change abilities. It’s time states recognize this conclusion and support occupational licensing reforms. Idaho is no exception and must keep moving on reforms that make sense for adults and children.

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