Labor Day is coming up this weekend, signaling the end of the summer and beginning of the fall season. The Labor Day holiday was originally created to observe and celebrate American workers and all they contribute to our communities and our society.
Over the past several years, we have passed a number of bills to make Iowa a better place to live and work for everyone. Iowa was labeled as one of the top states for burdensome occupational regulation in our country. Reforming occupational licensing was a big priority that I worked on throughout my time in the Iowa Senate. Not only would reforms make it easier to do business in Iowa, but it would ease the burden on a lot of people working to make their life better.
A study by the Institute of Justice found more often than not, occupational licenses affected those earning a low or moderate income, and varied greatly from state to state. These can be licenses for being a bus driver, contractor, or bartender – one state even requires a license to be a florist. Fees to obtain a license can range from a couple bucks to thousands of dollars, while taking months, and even years, to get. According to this study, Iowa requires a license for almost 70 percent of low-income jobs.
One of the biggest parts of the licensing reform we passed during the 2020 legislative session was universal licensing recognition. This reform allows people already licensed in another state to move to Iowa and have their license recognized without having to start over. Additionally, it created a path to licensure by recognizing work experience as education. This allows someone moving to Iowa with at least 3 years of work experience and no prior license to satisfy the education requirement for an occupational license.
In addition to our previous occupational licensing reforms that gave mobility to our active duty military spouses and veterans, as well as preventing suspension of a license due to student loan obligations, our reforms continued to provide relief to low-income, working class Iowans. We waived application fees for new applicants with income below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). We also reformed our state’s criminal conviction standard. By implementing a uniform standard for all licensees that is specific to their duties of the occupation, it gives individuals a stronger chance to succeed and become valuable members of our communities.
Consistently our goal at the Capitol is to enact legislation that will allow more people to succeed and give them more opportunities. This Labor Day, Iowans can be proud to celebrate these occupational licensing reforms where even more American workers have the freedom and ability to work where they want, and improve the lives of themselves and their families.