As rioters seek to topple statues, state lawmakers around the country are focused on unjust statutes, working to remove barriers to employment that occupational licensing requirements often serve. On July 6th, 2020, Missouri Governor Mike Parson signed HB 2046 into law, making Missouri the sixth state to enact a licensing reciprocity law for out-of-state occupational license holders, allowing “any individual holding a current, valid license for at least one year at the same practice level as Missouri in any profession regulated by a state board, department, or office of a jurisdiction”.  

HB 2046, sponsored by Rep. Grier, also creates the Fresh Start Act and the Expanded Workforce Act, with the former banning occupational licensing boards from discriminating against those with a criminal history, unless the crime was related to the occupation. The Expanded Workforce Act provides opportunities and career pathways such as an apprenticeship for an occupational license, as long as it is regulated by the Missouri Department of Commerce and Insurance. 

“By expanding license reciprocity, HB 2046 will eliminate governmental barriers to employment and allow citizens to become licensed faster when moving or needing to find work in Missouri. This will not only help fill critical jobs in our economy but also highlight Missouri as an ideal state to live and work,” Governor Parson said

This move follows the passage of universal license recognition bills in several states, with the most recent being Iowa. The first to pass such a law was Arizona, and has since then been followed by Pennsylvania, Utah, Montana, and Idaho. Other states such as Arkansas, Florida, and Texas have passed licensing laws more specifically aimed at allowing those with criminal backgrounds to be able to find jobs. These reforms remove unjustified barriers to work and unnecessary regulations that hurt both families and the economy. 

Even though employment barriers hurt all citizens, they disproportionately affect military families who do not have control over where/when they have to move. Military families are especially burdened by occupational licensing requirements, as frequent relocation requires military spouses to repeatedly navigate obstacles such as taking classes or paying fees in order to be able to go back to work in their field for which they are already well trained. 

In January 2020, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine signed Senate Bill 7 into law, which looks out for military families by allowing military spouses to continue working in their field without having to get recertified or pay fees to get a new license. Requirements for occupational licenses can vary state-to-state, which makes it very difficult and tedious for military spouses and people in general to go back to work after moving to a new state. SB 7 has been in effect since April 2020. The Buckeye Institute helped push for this legislation and is still working with Ohio lawmakers to pass occupational licensing reform for not only military spouses, but all Ohio residents. 

North Carolina has also passed a bill to reduce barriers for military spouses to find work once they move to the state. House Bill 1053/Senate Bill 717 was passed unanimously by both chambers in June to get rid of employment roadblocks for military families by improving data reporting and publicizing licensure information and opportunities available for them. This legislation automatically recognizes out-of-state speech pathology and audiology licenses without requiring a Noth Carolina license.  

“In North Carolina, we have always striven to be the most military friendly state in the nation,” said Rep. John Bell. “This bill is yet another important step we can take to help support and improve the quality of life for North Carolina veterans, military service members and their spouses.”  

With nearly 20 million Americans out of work, state lawmakers are wise to remove unnecessary barriers to employment, many of which were put in place for protectionist reasons. The pandemic has been enough of a roadblock, there does not need to be any more. The pandemic is bringing light to the fact that many regulations were never needed, and that occupational licensing reciprocity is a good thing. Hopefully more states will follow the lead of Arizona and Missouri by enacting universal licensing legislation.