Free-Market Think Tank Backs Bill Lightening Occupational Licensure Burden, Urges Further Reform

In the view of an Ohio conservative think tank, the Buckeye State should enact a bill the House passed, and the Senate is now considering to pare back licensure burdens for many professionals. 

Greg R. Lawson, a research fellow at the Columbus-based Buckeye Institute, testified this week before the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee in favor of the bill. He added he believes the state should pursue further reform even after the legislation passes the Senate and receives Governor Mike DeWine’s signature. 

In 2018, at Buckeye’s urging, legislators passed a measure ordering a review of the state’s onerous licensing bureaucracy. That led to the committee issuing its Occupational License Review Report last year. That report suggested several ways to ease the rules for certification governing such professionals as pharmacists, school psychologists, occupational therapists, speech and hearing professionals and vision specialists.

Lawson’s think tank provided many suggestions to lawmakers as they compiled the report. The legislation to implement many of the document’s recommendations, sponsored by State Representatives Marilyn John (R-Mansfield) and Sarah Fowler Arthur (R-Ashtabula), passed the state House of Representatives nearly unanimously in March. In Lawson’s estimation, the changes are an initial step in a process to make Ohio more economically competitive. 

In his remarks to the Senate panel, he cited Buckeye Institute data showing that overly extensive training requirements and exorbitant fees can lower job growth by as much as one-fifth. In the report Lawson referenced, institute fiscal policy fellow Tom Lampman noted that, of the 31 middle-income careers requiring state licensing in Ohio, nearly half of them demand that aspiring professionals complete hundreds or thousands of hours of pre-certification training and experience. That would, for example, require someone who wants to train to become a cosmetologist to take so much time off of a minimum wage job that it would potentially cost him or her $12,000 in lost wages. 

“Occupational licensing restrictions make hiring more difficult for employers and tell skilled workers that their skills and training are insufficient and unwanted here,” Lawson lamented.

Other researchers have likewise found the Buckeye State’s heavy licensing burden to have a detrimental impact on the state’s economic position. An Institute for Justice analysis, for instance, determined that Ohio’s occupational regulations killed over 67,000 jobs by 2018. And anemic job growth tends to affect population trends; Ohio is now one of the 10 states experiencing the most outward migration.

“This concerning statistic is reinforced by 2021 Census data, which shows a decline in Ohio’s population,” Lawson pointed out. “Changing the occupational licensing regime is not a silver bullet to fix these troubling trends overnight, but it can play a role in reversing them.”

A further step Ohio can take toward more sensible regulation in addition to passing the John-Arthur bill, he said, is adopting universal occupational licensing recognition. This would allow certified professionals from other states to retain their right to practice their trades when they move to Ohio. Free-marketers have lamented the fact that many other states embrace universal recognition while Ohio does not. 

The governor is widely expected to sign John and Arthur’s measure after the Senate passes it. DeWine has generally supported making licensing processes more facile in his state. In 2020, he signed legislation easing the path through which military members can transfer their occupational licenses obtained in other states when the seek work in Ohio.

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Ohio Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Greg Lawson” by Greg R. Lawson. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Sixflashphoto. CC BY-SA 4.0.


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