Ohio Legislature Considers Occupational-Licensing Reciprocity Bill

Published March 24, 2020

The State and Local Government Committee of the Ohio House of Representatives is considering a bill that would effectively synchronize the state’s occupational licensing regulations with those of other states by recognizing out-of-state certifications as valid in the state.

House Bill 432 (H.B 432) would require Ohio state occupational licensing authorities to issue a license or government certification to an applicant who holds a license, government or private certification, or has satisfactory work experience in another state. Ohio has enacted reciprocity for the spouses of military service members.

Borrowing Good Ideas

State Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum), one of H.B. 432’s two primary sponsors, says the enactment of a similar law in Arizona inspired her to introduce the act.

“Currently, we have 120,000 or 140,000 open jobs in the state of Ohio,” Powell said. “If you talk to small business owners, they say ‘I need more workers.’ What red tape is there that’s inhibiting people from working in the state of Ohio or moving here? I’m always looking at what other states are doing. I saw that Arizona was working on a similar piece of legislation, and instantly said ‘we gotta look into this.’ Over the past year, we started looking into it and seeing the benefits of this reciprocity act. I was really excited to start researching it, and the more I continued researching it, the more positives I saw.”

Similar Problems in New Jersey

State occupational licensing is also problem in other states. Brigitte Nzali, owner of African & American Braidings, Inc. in Gloucester Township, New Jersey, says big government crushes the dreams of families moving across geographic borders in search of a better life elsewhere.

Nzali has been fighting for occupational licensing reform in New Jersey for more than twenty years, seeking to reform New Jersey’s restrictions governing practitioners of African hair-braiding or natural hair-braiding, a procedure involving no chemicals or heat.

“When I moved from France to the United States for better opportunities, I started living in a neighborhood where there were no African culture salons,” Nzali said. “A lot of people in the community had to travel to New York, D.C., or Maryland just to have their hair braided. I was born in Africa, where the braiding is part of the culture, so I was braiding when I was very, very little. I have a degree in business, and I decided to open a salon specializing in the culture.

“My concern is that we need better occupational licensing reform to help families who make a living out of this business, and to be able to have a living and work.”

Workforce Issues Pandemic

Powell says there is a workforce shortage in every state, including Ohio, and she wants to solve that problem.

“I come from a business background, so I understand the needs of businesses in the state of Ohio,” Powell said. “Business has always been a passion point for me. When you start campaigning, you talk to and hear from hundreds of business owners and hundreds of thousands of people about ‘what is your greatest need?’ After I was elected, I saw the president sit down with the National Governors’ Association, and they said the number-one issue facing every state, nationwide, was workforce development—there’s a workforce shortage.”

“Every time I talked to other small business owners, I’d hear over and over, ‘Jena, we can expand but we don’t have the personnel we need,'” Powell said. “I am always on the lookout for legislation that helps that workforce shortage and that gap that we have currently in the state.”

Nzali says there is also a deeper reason occupational licensing reform needs to happen, in Ohio and other states.

“It is important because we are in a country of opportunity,” Nzali said. “It needs to be done so there is opportunity for everybody, hard-working men and women like myself. For twenty years, I helped a lot of students for the different beauty schools by giving them further opportunities and showing them how to braid. Hard-working people like us have to have better opportunities and equal opportunities, and that’s why licensing reform has to be done.”

Heartened by Support

Knowledge and skills demonstrated in one state are not lost when an individual moves elsewhere, Powell says.

“People, when they cross state lines, don’t lose their knowledge of the trade that they’re in,” Powell said.
Powell says she’s happy to see bipartisan support of occupational licensing reform bills such as H.B. 432.

“What’s really cool is most of the time, it’s Republican-pushed or Democrat-pushed, but the Obama administration pushed it and the current administration pushed it. That’s what we’ve told the legislature:  this isn’t a party issue, this is a ‘for the good of Ohio and the nation’ issue. We’re continuing that message, that the Obama administration started and Trump continues toward.”

The State and Local Government Committee’s second hearing on H.B. 432 was held on January 29. No further action had been taken as of press time.

Jesse Hathaway ([email protected]) is a policy advisor to The Heartland Institute.