It’s a great first step, but as longtime observers of Louisiana oversaturated occupational licensing regime have advocated, more needs doing to cut the red tape and bureaucracy plaguing entrepreneurs posed by the state’s tradition of overly aggressive and needless requirements on professions.
Monday, a Louisiana House panel passed to the floor two bills that will ease this regulatory burden at least slightly. HB 639 by Republican state Rep. Thomas Pressly would allow previously incarcerated individuals the chance to petition licensing boards before attending school or training to determine if a past conviction disqualifies them from obtaining a license. HB 597, now HB 1062 by substitute, by Democrat state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman would allow individuals to request a review of a regulation from an occupational licensing board to ensure the regulation is the least restrictive method of regulating the occupation.
Both bills try to cut down on the unnecessary hoops to work a trade in the state. HB 639 would prevent situations where somebody spends time and money to train for something and then doesn’t get surprised by a licensing regulation to pursue that trade that excludes ex-convicts. Even more helpfully, it sets up a challenge process that would force licensing boards to justify why a conviction matters and what went into making that determination. Publicizing this could lead to dismantling such requirements where they don’t appear necessary.
HB 597 does the same, in that boards must justify their regulations. Again, rulings against appellants that appear out of bounds would draw scrutiny that could lead to legislative intervention easing errant restrictions.
But, it’s not enough. Louisiana long has shamefully held the crown as the most overregulated state for occupational licensing, with a large total number of “professions” covered that hardly has ticked down over the last several years. At one point, Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards pledged to tackle the issue but then failed to back bills that would have required regular review of licensing requirements, including whether a profession even needed regulation, among other things. And, as have other governors, he doesn’t take advantage of a power to direct legislators to review licensing requirements because the more occupations to regulate the more boards there are to fill with supplicants which might encourage them to throw more cash to yours or your favorite other politician’s campaign.
It’s time to restart this reform effort beyond these small steps. This should be low-hanging fruit for any policy-maker concerned with jumpstarting the state’s perpetually-underachieving economy, hampered as it is by too much government sapping incentives by getting rid of some of those roadblocks through jettisoning unneeded restrictions.