Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) has introduced H.R. 3145, the “Freedom To Work Act,” legislation that directs the federal government to reduce policies that lead to burdensome occupational licensing requirements at the state level. 

Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges its swift passage through Congress. 

An occupational license is a permission slip from the government that states that an individual is certified to work in a certain industry. In order to obtain this permission slip, workers must undergo costly and time-consuming training, facing stiff penalties or even jail time if they fail to do so. 

While politicians claim that these government permission slips are a matter of public health and safety, occupational licensing impacts a wide swath of industries unrelated to public health. For example, to obtain a license to practice African hair braiding in Pennsylvania, applicants must spend over $4,000 and 300 hours in training. 

Onerous occupational licensing requirements prevent thousands of Americans from entering the workforce every day. 25 percent of occupations now require a government license, versus 5 percent sixty years ago. These mandates cost American consumers $203 billion annually, reduce the number of American jobs by 2.85 million, and create a massive barrier to entry for middle and low-income workers seeking to start their careers. 

Even though occupational licensing requirements are mainly promulgated at the state level, the federal government has a role to play in ensuring that federal policies, grants, or contracts do not set unnecessary licensing requirements. 

H.R. 3145 works to reduce occupational licensing burdens in three steps:

  1. Direct federal agencies to regularly review policies that may cause states to adopt unnecessary occupational licensing requirements.

  2. Require federal agencies to submit a report to the President and Congress detailing recommended changes to federal law to allow less onerous alternatives to licensing.

  3. Direct states to detail the steps they are taking to reduce occupational licensing requirements, as well as broader occupational licensing reforms occurring in the state. 

As our economy recovers from government-mandated lockdowns, the last thing Americans need is costly government permission slips just to get a job. The Freedom to Work Act is an important step towards reducing onerous and unnecessary occupational licensing requirements at the state and federal level.