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Arizona Becomes First State in Country to Protect the Right to Earn a Living

April 6, 2017

Phoenix—After surviving breast cancer, Lauren Boice started a business called Angels on Earth. Her business dispatched licensed cosmetologists to individuals who were homebound because of illness or immobility. Even though Lauren did not cut anyone’s hair or do anyone’s makeup, she simply connected licensed providers with those in need, the Arizona Board of Cosmetology told Lauren that she needed a salon license and physical space to operate her business. Lauren fought back with the help of the Goldwater Institute and the Board backed off. But, if Lauren would have had to make her full case in court, she would have faced an uphill battle. Not because the Board was right, but because courts have relegated the right to earn a living to second class status over the years. Until now. Today, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into effect a new law called the Right to Earn a Living Act that will protect entrepreneurs like Lauren for good.

“A hallmark of American freedom is the right to pursue one’s chosen profession and provide for oneself and one’s family. This is particularly true today – where new technologies make entrepreneurship easier than ever. SB 1437 restores the proper balance between free enterprise and legitimate government regulation, ensuring that economic opportunity for all is not merely a promise, but a reality,” said Jon Riches, the director of national litigation and general counsel for the Goldwater Institute. Riches helped draft the model upon which Arizona’s new law is based.

Of all the rights Americans cherish, the freedom to earn a living or enter a new profession receives the least protection under the law. Like in Lauren’s case, all too often, regulatory agencies enact restrictions on who can open and operate a business even though they have not been given the authority to do so by the Legislature. The Right to Earn a Living Act changes this by requiring regulatory agencies to show some legitimate public harm before blocking individuals from a profession.

The Right to Earn a Living Act is based on a simple premise: The government should have to prove that excessive regulations on people who want to earn an honest living will keep people safe—not just keep existing companies safe from competition.

In signing the bill into law, Governor Ducey said: “The opportunity to earn a living and pursue the American dream is a right promised to every citizen. But too often, government stands in the way, imposing unnecessary barriers meant only to serve entrenched interests. Today’s bill is a positive step toward ending that unfair practice.”

The Right to Earn a Living Act does two primary things:

  • First, the legislation simply requires that any regulation that limits participation in a job or profession “be limited to those demonstrated to be necessary to specifically fulfill a public health, safety, or welfare concern.”
  • Second, if a regulation is on the books that violates the law, a person harmed by the regulation can ask the agency to repeal or modify the restriction. If the agency decides not to change or repeal the regulation, the person can challenge the agency’s decision in court. The Right to Earn a Living Act changes the way courts must interpret agency regulations. Instead of automatically assuming the agency has the authority to restrict entry into a profession, courts would assume they don’t have that authority unless the regulation is “demonstrated to be necessary to specifically fulfill a public health, safety, or welfare concern.”

The Institute released a report and model legislation creating the Right to Earn a Living Act in 2016. The Institute’s previous work on occupational licensing was also cited in the Obama Administration’s creation of best practices for state lawmakers.



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