Testimony in SUPPORT of SR 85: “Creating the Senate Occupational Licensing Study Committee.”
Marc Hyden, Director of State Government Affairs, R Street Institute
In SUPPORT of SR 85: “Creating the Senate Occupational Licensing Study Committee”
March 16, 2023
Senate Rules Committee
Chairman and members of the committee,
My name is Marc Hyden. I am a Georgia resident and the director of state government affairs at 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, including occupational licensure reform. That is why SR 85 is of special interest to us.
The Peach State has been facing historic workforce shortages across numerous sectors for years. According to a 2022 Georgia Chamber of Commerce Report, “[p]re-COVID, there were 3 openings for every person looking for a job in our state,” and matters still have not been resolved.
Georgia has some of the worst nurse and physician-to-patient ratios in the country. The medical shortage has impacted nearly every Georgia county. Now, “about a third of Georgians, or 3.3 million, live in an area with a primary care shortage,” but the workforce shortages go far beyond the medical community. “Workers are scarce in nearly every industry, from service and hospitality to manufacturing, construction, agriculture and even office jobs,” wrote Chris Clark, Georgia Chamber President and CEO.
While there is no silver bullet to fix the workforce problems, relieving government-imposed impediments to employment should be a top priority, and state occupational licenses serve as one such impediment. In the 1950s, only around 5 percent of the workforce needed a license to work, but requirements have since proliferated. Today, nearly 30 percent of the workforce needs a license.
While licenses make sense for some occupations, like doctors and engineers, Georgia requires many individuals to obtain a license, including librarians, blow-dry stylists, pre-need cemetery plot salespeople, interior designers, lactation consultants, boxing promoters and a host of other occupations. And obtaining a license is not always an easy and quick process.
According to the Institute for Justice, Georgia has the 12th most burdensome occupational licensing regimes for lower-income professions and requires more than “$185 in fees, 464 days of education and experience, and about two exams” to obtain a license.
Policymakers often justify licensing mandates as a method of protecting consumers from unqualified workers, which is a noble goal, but these requirements are often unnecessary. “Most empirical evidence does not find that stricter licensing requirements improve quality, public safety or health,” reads a President Barack Obama administration report.
In setting an unnecessarily high bar to employment for many occupations, licensing mandates have detrimental effects on the economy as a whole. Licensing mandates may result in 3 million fewer jobs across the United States and cost American consumers hundreds of billions of dollars extra per year, according to recent studies.
Obtaining a license can be a painfully slow process. Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill last year to require the issuance of an occupation license by endorsement within 90 days to a military spouse transitioning to Georgia who meets the state’s statutory requirements and submits a satisfactory application.
While this was a critically important step in the right direction, it only applies to military spouses. This means that non-military spouse applicants can be qualified and have submitted a licensing application, but they may have to wait more than three months for approval. Meanwhile, they are not allowed to provide for their family in their chosen occupation.
Georgia’s occupational licensing regimes are problematic on many fronts, inhibiting our economy and hampering the state’s ability to address workforce shortages. Sen. Larry Walker’s SR 85 represents a step toward reversing these trends. It would provide the Senate the power to form a study committee to determine how to safely and responsibly lower barriers to employment. Given all of this, I respectfully urge you to support SR 85.
Thank you for your time.
Director, State Government Affairs
R Street Institute