Occupational licensing, the requirement that individuals gain government permission before entering certain professions, creates substantial barriers to work and limits economic opportunity. This reality is acknowledged by those with ideological viewpoints as diverse as President Obama and Senator Mike Lee.
Despite a growing momentum for change, it remains difficult to pass effective reforms. Many established businesses and trade associations support higher government-imposed barriers to entry because increased costs limit their competition.
Wisconsin stands out as one of the few states that overcame opposition and passed meaningful occupational licensing reforms . Last year, Representative Dale Kooyenga sponsored a bill that stopped local governments from creating new occupational licenses or levying additional fees. This was a welcome first step because occupations including Christmas tree sellers and secondhand dealers currently require licenses in a number of Wisconsin communities. If this reform was passed a decade ago, it is estimated that 100 fewer occupations across the state would require a local license.
In what follows, Representative Kooyenga explains how excessive licensing requirements harm economic opportunity. He also shares his insights on the best practices for successful reforms.