Conditions are ripe in Georgia to prune occupational licensing laws burdening the Peach State with the support of new officeholders Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
“There’s great hope for occupational licensing reform in Georgia in the next legislative session,” said Benita M. Dodd, vice president of the Georgia Public Policy Foundation and a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute, which publishes Budget & Tax News.
‘A Dramatic Increase’
The percentage of the workforce in occupations requiring government licenses has grown nationwide, from 5 percent of workers were in 1950 to 19 percent today, according to a 2018 study of available data on 36 states by the Institute for Justice (IJ).
“Like most of the nation, Georgia has seen a dramatic increase in the number of occupations requiring a government license,” said Randy Hicks, president of the Georgia Center for Opportunity.
From 1993 to 2012, Georgia added 23 new licenses and certifications, according to a 2018 study by the Archbridge Institute.
Some 14 percent of the workforce in Georgia are in occupations requiring a license, compared to a nationwide average of 19 percent, says the IJ report.
‘A Negative Impact’
The increase of licensing in recent decades has prevented low-income Georgians from entering higher paying occupations, says Hicks.
“These new licenses had a negative impact on Georgians’ upward economic mobility and increased overall income inequality between the richest and poorest Georgians,” Hicks said. “In other words, increased occupational licensing harms the ability of Georgians to move up the economic ladder.”
In addition, says Hicks, a 2017 study by economists Evgeny S. Vorotnikov and Morris M. Kleiner in the Journal of Regulatory Economics found that across the United States, once an occupation is licensed, wages in those jobs rise by an average of 13.4 percent and employment declines by 11.4 percent. The study found Georgia has 91,376 fewer jobs than it would without occupational licensing.
“[Georgia] has some of the nation’s more onerous licensing requirements, coupled with an active protectionist lobby in several professions—especially medical fields, where more workers are sorely needed,” said Dodd.
‘A Climate of Reform’
Georgia government officials support licensing reform, says Dodd.
“The campaign platform of incoming Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, previously a state representative, included occupational licensing reform, which is handled by that office,” said Dodd.
“In his previous position as Secretary of State, incoming Gov. Brian Kemp worked on streamlining occupational licensing requirements, including online renewals to reduce delays and long trips,” Dodd said.
Georgia’s previous governor helped create conditions for reform by successfully advocating changes in state law to stop state employment and licensing applications from asking about arrests for crimes, says Dodd.
“Outgoing Gov. Nathan Deal leaves behind a climate of reform,” said Dodd. “He championed ban-the-box efforts in state government and occupational licensing, so that former offenders have an opportunity to apply for jobs without being automatically eliminated before an interview, and to obtain jobs in professions where they are not a risk once they have paid their debt to society.”
Hicks says the legislature should look at less intrusive alternatives before licensing occupations.
“When considering licensing a new occupation, lawmakers in Georgia should consider much less restrictive forms of regulation, such as certification or registration, and carefully consider if any regulation is needed at all for that particular industry,” Hicks said.
Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.
Edward Timmons, Brian Meehan, Andrew Meehan, and John Hazenstab, “Too Much License?” Archbridge Institute, April 10, 2018: