GOP lawmakers to introduce occupational licensing reform this week

Written by Evan Paskach on .

gerlack chris rOn Monday, Sen. Chris Gerlach (R-Apple Valley) and Rep. Keith Downey (R-Edina) introduced a bill to address the “unnecessary regulation” posed by occupational licensing requirements and create as many as 15,000 jobs in Minnesota.

“We have a bill that is going to go a long way to eliminate unnecessary barriers to job creation. We’ve talked a lot about the need to get people back to work, and that is the problem we are trying to solve,” said Sen. Gerlach.

As Sen. Gerlach outlined, the bill would aim to create a hierarchy to start at the lowest level of regulation possible, starting with an inspection as a minimal requirement and ending with licensure as the highest level of regulation. “It might be inspection, bonding registration, [and] certification before you get to licensing. Licensing may be appropriate, but we need to make sure that people are able to practice their occupations with the lowest levels of barriers possible.”

Gerlach also explained that the bill aims to put the responsibility of proving harm on the government rather than the citizens, calling occupational licensure the “800 pound gorilla” that can regulate people out of an occupation.  

“The burden of whether or not you’re harming the public in some way ought to be on the government for imposing that license, so this bill simply requires the legislature to find real harm and select the appropriate level of occupational regulation to meet that harm,” said Sen. Gerlach. “This is about primarily state occupational licensure regulations going too far and having a detrimental economic impact on the state of Minnesota both for individuals and the larger job picture and people seeking to work for themselves.”

Rep. Downey echoed those sentiments, saying the bill is good for workers, small businesses, and entrepreneurs. Lee McGrath, Institute of Justice staff attorney, and Morris Kleiner, Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota labor policy scholar, were also in attendance on behalf of the bill. downey keith r

“What they do is limit consumer choice, drive up consumer prices and make it harder for would-be entrepreneurs to enter the marketplace.  If you want to protect consumers, vigorously enforce existing laws against fraud, but don’t limit entry in to the marketplace, especially by imposing academic tests that often have nothing to do with the services provided,” McGrath said in a statement.

Kleiner estimates that occupational regulation has cost the state an estimated 15,000 jobs, referring to it as a “reverse Robin Hood” effect.

“This legislation recognizes that unnecessary licensing laws are often bad for Minnesotans. This type of licensing reduces jobs.  Converting licensing laws to less restrictive regulations, like certification, could stimulate over 15,000 new jobs in Minnesota.”

The bill will be heard in the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee on Wednesday.

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