While politicians of all stripes talk of the need to “create more jobs,” about one in four jobs in America requires an occupational license — a government permission slip to work. These licenses are expensive, demand time-consuming training, and are subject to requirements that vary from state to state.
Americans face government-imposed barriers to work in a wide range of professions, including barbers, plumbers, real estate agents, sign language interpreters, florists, landscapers, coaches, interior designers, and many others. No matter how qualified someone is, Americans must re-apply for permission to work when they move to a new state. That’s a costly and unnecessary barrier for countless Americans to earn a living.
The average military family moves every two to three years, picking up everything and getting adjusted to new neighborhoods, new schools, and new daily lives. And for military spouses, these frequent relocations can mean major disruptions in their careers. Those who work in fields that require occupational licenses often have to spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to continue doing their jobs in their new state—jobs they’re already licensed to do in another state.
By the time they get through the paperwork, complete the testing, get their license, and find a new job in the new state, new orders will likely come through that they will have to move again and start the process all over. At some point, they begin to ask when it will be their turn to put their careers first. Some talk about it. Some don’t.
“I thought about it every day,” said Debbi Chapman, an open-heart intensive care unit nurse who eventually gave up her profession because it became unworkable to maintain her license as she moved from state to state. “Did I voice it? No. But I’m sure there are many spouses out there that are not as accepting as I was.”
New Report available HERE on dozens of military spouses facing occupational licensing challenges.
The Goldwater Institute has a solution to help military spouses keep working: the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act. Goldwater Director of National Litigation Jon Riches explains in his new report Breaking Down Barriers to Work for Military Families that the Goldwater-drafted model bill “recognizes that military members and their families do not forget how to practice their trade or profession when they cross state lines.
The Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act makes it easier for Americans to continue to work by ensuring their professional licenses are universally recognized when they move to a new state.
Instead of asking licensed professionals to jump through expensive, time-consuming, and redundant hoops, this law directs state government to issue licenses to new residents who apply for a license and meet simple, commonsense criteria. By breaking down barriers to work, licensed professionals, members of the military, veterans, and their family members will be free to pursue their American dream.
Barriers to work are already coming down in Arizona thanks to the Goldwater Institute’s reform. Less than a year after the new law took effect in early 2019, more than 800 people used it to obtain their occupational licenses in fields as varied as cosmetology to construction to dentistry, according to a survey of state licensing entities. Read more about it here.
The Goldwater Institute’s success in breaking down barriers to work is catching on all across the country. As of March 2020 — less than a year after Arizona enacted its law — more than 20 states were pursuing reforms based on the Goldwater Institute “Breaking Down Barriers to Work” model.
Breaking Down Barriers to Work is garnering bipartisan support across the country, because making it easier for Americans to get to work just makes sense.
“As society becomes more mobile, there’s a broader recognition that we want to welcome professionals that move across states,” Goldwater Institute Director of National Litigation Jon Riches said. “It’s really hard when the rubber meets the road for people to come up with reasoned explanations for why these reciprocity laws aren’t in place.”
Indeed, if a person has already gone through the time and training they need to earn a license in one state, they have the skills, knowledge, and know-how to keep working in their new home without having to go through more costly and time-consuming efforts just to do the same job.
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