11, 2019

Governor Kemp:

My name is Marc Hyden. I am a
Georgia resident and the Director of State Government Affairs for the

R Street Institute, a nonprofit,
nonpartisan public policy research organization. Our mission is to engage in
policy research and outreach to promote free markets and limited, effective
government in many areas. Today, I write to urge you to sign SB 214 into law.

The State of Georgia has the 14th
most burdensome occupational licensing laws in the country. These laws force
prospective workers to clear costly and time-consuming hurdles in order to make
a living. Often, these barriers are wholly unnecessary and do little to benefit
the public.[i]
Indeed, the current law needlessly requires a would-be barber or cosmetologist
to be deemed a person of “good moral character” before being permitted to work.[ii]
This goes far beyond what is needed, and thankfully, SB 214 works toward easing
this restriction.

“Good moral character” clauses
give licensing boards broad power to reject licensing applications based on
ambiguous guidelines. This can prevent the formerly incarcerated from entering
the workforce, which keeps them out of work and in poverty, thus encouraging
them to return to crime to make a living.

The problems associated with
occupational licensing go far beyond just barbers and cosmetologists. In fact,
the state of Georgia has weaponized occupational licensing regimes. To date,
Georgia is one of a shrinking minority of states that are empowered to suspend
the occupational licenses of those who fall behind on their student loans. States
are increasingly abandoning this model, and for good reason.[iii]

When such suspensions are
imposed, licensees are prohibited from working in their profession, which merely
makes it harder to repay their debts. After all, it is difficult for individuals
to re-enter satisfactory repayment status when they do not have a job. This
policy essentially creates joblessness and subsequently pushes the newly
unemployed into poverty. These people then become more likely to apply for
taxpayer-funded assistance. This only increases the burden on working
Georgians. Government-created poverty harms more than just the borrowers. It
impacts the families who rely on their income. Indeed, lost wages can mean the
difference between providing and failing to provide shelter and nourishment for
loved ones.

While originally designed to hold
borrowers accountable and prevent defaults, this policy has failed. As of 2015,
the average federal student loan default rate was lower in states without
revocation authority than it was in Georgia. Thus, the threat of suspension
does not appear to be effective at discouraging defaults. While it is certainly
important to encourage debt repayment, this must be done responsibly.
Fortunately, we already have time-tested tools to do so at our disposal. Currently,
delinquent borrowers’ wages can be garnished, tax returns or social security
payments seized and liens assessed against their property.[iv]

Thankfully, late in the session,
the SB 214 conference committee included language from Sen. Beach’s SB 92 and
Rep. Turner’s SB 42 in SB 214 to address these issues, and it passed both
chambers overwhelmingly. The R Street Institute has worked closely with Sen.
Beach and Rep. Turner on these measures since summer 2018. What’s more, a large
coalition of organizations have signed onto our enclosed coalition letter
stating that the current policy is imprudent.[v]

The bottom line is that Georgia
should not be in the business of creating unemployment and poverty or
needlessly increasing the burden on taxpayers. Instead, we should do the
opposite, which is why we respectfully implore you to sign SB 214 into law.

Thank you for your time,

Marc Hyden

Director, State Government

R Street Institute

(404) 918-2731

[email protected]

[i] Carpenter, Dick M., et al., “License to Work” 2nd Edition,
Institute for Justice, November 2017.

[ii] Chapter 10 of Title 43 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated.

[iii] Weissmann, Shoshana, and Dieterle, Jarrett, “How states use
occupational licensing to punish student loan defaults,” R Street Institute,
June 27, 2018.

[iv] Hyden, Marc and Dieterle, Jarrett, “R Sheet on Georgia Suspension of
Occupational Licenses for Student Loan Defaults,” R Street Institute, November
7, 2018.

[v] Galloway, Jim, “The Jolt: In the final hours, lawmakers allow metro
Atlanta transit talk to proceed,” Atlanta Journal Constitution, April 3, 2019.

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