Interstate compacts have a long history in licensing portability policy. These multi-state agreements provide shortened routes to licensing for professionals approved for practice in one state but who seek to work in another.
More recently, Universal License Recognition (ULR) — laws requiring licensing bodies to grant a license to a practitioner certified in another state — have been passed in 12 states. This trend in licensing policy represents a broader goal of states to lower barriers for professionals to enter a state’s workforce, while continuing to protect public health and safety. In that effort to expand eligibility to work, the implementation of ULR, as well as interstate compacts, must address the differences among states in licensing requirements for those with past criminal convictions. There are important variations in the crafting of these licensing laws that can have a significant impact on certain practitioners looking to move into a state with a universal license recognition law.
Apprenticeships, an “earn while you learn” program with on-the-job training for future practitioners of a trade or profession, are an increasingly available pathway toward licensure in several states. According to DOL statistics, 94% of those who complete an apprenticeship program maintain employment and earn an average salary of $70,000. With such success stories, there has been a 128% increase in new apprenticeships since 2009 and 12,300 new apprenticeship programs created in the last five years. In 2021, numerous bills about apprenticeships and apprenticeship programs have been introduced in state legislatures across the country.
Around 1 in 3 American adults have been arrested before they reach 23 years of age and between 70 and 100 million Americans have a criminal record. Because a criminal record can include speeding tickets, it is no wonder this number is so high. However, a criminal record can still inhibit individuals from finding employment or being licensed in particular occupations. Occupational licensing regulations sometimes have a blanket prohibition on individuals with any criminal convictions, or “good moral character” clauses that allow a licensing board to deny a license for an arrest without conviction. This contributes to a large segment of the population being unable to work, even if their arrest or conviction occurred years prior to their application.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed SB 255 on Friday which puts an expiration date of 6 years on all state licensing boards unless they are renewed by the legislature. Prior to a board’s end date, the board must present to standing committees so that lawmakers can evaluate the usefulness, performance, and effectiveness of the board. Each board will have the burden of proof to demonstrate there is a public need for its continued existence. The Legislature will determine whether a board is necessary to protect the health, safety, or welfare of the public and whether its regulations are the least restrictive form that adequately protects the public interest.
On November 28-30, the states a part of the occupational licensing policy learning consortium convened for the second annual meeting in Clearwater, Florida. The state teams had the opportunity to focus on four population groups who are disproportionately affected by licensure—individuals with criminal records, veterans and military spouses, dislocated workers and immigrants with work authorization. License portability, reciprocity, and interstate compacts were also major topics. States had the opportunity to connect with and learn from fellow consortium states, as well as hear from states outside of the consortium that have taken action on occupational licensure including Nebraska and Michigan.
The consortium of states participating in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Licensing: Assessing State Policy and Practice project recently began their second round of project meetings to discuss occupational license reform. The 11 states–Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin–are individually meeting to further review their licensure process, engage with policy experts and develop action plans. The state team meetings will culminate this year in the project’s second multistate learning consortium summit to be held Nov. 28-30 in Clearwater, Florida.
States continue to take significant actions in attempts to lessen barriers to workforce entry caused by occupational licensing. CSG currently facilitates a consortium of 11 states looking at occupational licensing reform as a part of the Occupational Licensing Assessing State Policy and Practice project in partnership with NCSL and NGA, funded by the US Department of Labor. However, the examples below come from states not currently participating in this project’s consortium, signifying that occupational licensing reform is a priority for states nationwide, and not just the 11 states participating in this CSG project.
A commonly cited argument for occupational licensing reform states that licensing results in restricted employment growth and higher wages for licensed workers, which in turn increases consumer costs. Higher wages benefit licensed workers, but wage disparity leads to inefficiency and unfairness, including reducing employment opportunities and depressing wages for excluded workers.
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is providing in-depth analysis to help 11 states achieve their occupational licensure goals. CSG launched the occupational licensure project in partnership with the Department of Labor, or DOL, the National Conference of State Legislatures and the National Governors Association. The DOL scope includes assessing potential barriers to obtaining specific occupational licenses for target populations in 11 consortium states, including military spouses and children, immigrants with work authorizations, people with criminal records, and unemployed and displaced workers.
Connecticut held a meeting on March 2, 2018 on occupational licensure with assistance from The Council of State Governments, or CSG, the National Conference of State Legislatures, or NCSL and the National Governor’s Association, or NGA.