Washington, D.C. — On Wednesday, two members of Congress introduced worthwhile occupational licensing reforms that wield the federal government’s power while respecting federalism. Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Tenn.) introduced the Freedom to Work Act (H.R. 3145), which would reform licensing through the lens of the federal government as America’s largest employer. Additionally, Rep. Darrell Issa’s (R-Calif.) Restoring Board Immunity Act (H.R. 3147) would place conditions on the antitrust immunity that occupational licensing boards currently receive.

“Licensing reform aimed at the federal government itself, since it is the nation’s largest employer, is long overdue,” said Shoshana Weissmann, fellow at the R Street Institute. “States should follow suit by considering licensing reform among dozens of professions in order to help our economy grow.”

“The vast majority of licensing reform potential will always reside at the state and local level, but that does not mean Congress is powerless,” added Jarrett Dieterle, resident senior fellow at the R Street Institute.

As Weissmann and Dieterle recently wrote in The Dispatch, the federal government is America’s largest employer, employing more than 5 percent of America’s workforce. The Freedom to Work Act wisely creates processes by which the federal government would be required to regularly review its own occupational licensing restrictions and those it imposes on other entities such as states. The Act would require agencies to fix what they can and alert Congress to any changes that would require legislation. The R Street Institute has long advocated a reform that would leverage the federal government’s role as an employer.

Meanwhile, the Restoring Board Immunity Act revives legislation from previous sessions that places conditions on licensing boards before they receive antitrust immunity. R Street has long supported this idea as well; for too long, boards have engaged in anticompetitive behavior and even unilaterally decided to regulate professions not under their respective purviews.

The Freedom to Work Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.), Rep. Debbie Lesko (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.). The Restoring Board Immunity Act is co-sponsored by Rep. Tim Walberg (R-Mich.).

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