Policymakers can grow Illinois workforce and tax base by passing occupational licensing reforms

Occupational licenses should protect the health, safety and welfare of the public. Unfortunately, some occupational licenses are unnecessary and burdensome. They create unwarranted barriers for Illinois entrepreneurs and those interested in working in new professions.

Needless occupational licenses also keep people from moving to Illinois. Needless occupational licenses, or those which are overly restrictive, also hurt small businesses struggling to find qualified employees.

Illinois policymakers can support small businesses, create jobs and empower entrepreneurs by guarding against the imposition of unnecessary red tape through new occupational licenses. Legislation has already been filed which, if passed, will establish a process to investigate and review whether new occupational and professional licenses are necessary.

Illinois House Bill 4012 will permit any individual or interested party to ask the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation to review proposed legislation establishing new licenses or expanding the scope of those already in existence. The department will then be empowered to make recommendations to legislators before they vote to establish another occupational license.

Illinois legislators should also eliminate or modify unnecessary and burdensome licenses already on the books in Illinois. For example, a barber in Illinois must complete 1,500 hours of education, which is often costly, before being able to cut hair or start their own business.

This is only one example of a license that creates barriers for people trying to work. A committee should be established and tasked with analyzing whether existing licenses up for renewal are necessary and if so, whether the goals of the license can be accomplished through less restrictive and burdensome requirements. The committee should be empowered to make recommendations for legislators to consider before voting to extend a particular license.

Illinois can increase its workforce and tax base by honoring occupational licenses from other states. Policymakers should enact legislation that recognizes out-of-state licenses that provide the appropriate safeguards to protect our residents. For example, out-of-state licensees should be provided an Illinois license for certain occupations only if they meet comparable educational requirements and not had their license suspended or revoked. The portability of occupational licenses can help facilitate migration into Illinois.

Finally, legislation should be passed which establishes a task force comprised of bipartisan policymakers, consumer and criminal justice advocates charged with recommending ways to remove barriers for previously incarcerated individuals. Occupational licensing reforms which open the door for returning citizens to work in new professions will help.

States across the nation are cutting red tape for small businesses and individuals seeking to start a new career. Illinois should follow their lead. Growing the workforce and tax base is essential to the success of Illinois small businesses and our economy. Policymakers can increase both by passing occupational licensing reforms.

• Elliot Richardson is president and co-founder of the Small Business Advocacy Council.

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