Over the past few weeks, a bill in the Ohio state legislature (SB 255) that would force a regular review of Ohio’s occupational licensing requirements has passed the state senate and moved on to the house. The bill doesn’t directly change any licensing requirements, similar to a recently enacted law in Nebraska.
Writing in Columbus Business First, Shoshanna Weissmann of the R Street Institute makes the case for a different bill introduced last April that takes a more direct approach to reform.
House Bill 583, introduced by Rep. Michael Henne, R-Brookville, would stop Ohio’s local governments from creating new licenses and from licensing occupations that are already licensed by the state. Henne explained that to become a general contractor, plumber or electrician in Canton, you need to pay an additional $225. Plumbers in Dayton have to pay an additional $250, and if they want to work in Columbus, they need to pay $350 for a local license.
The legislation would also waive initial licensing fees on both the state and local levels for those whose household incomes are below 130 percent of the federal poverty line, as well as for military spouses, active duty military personnel, widowed spouses and veterans.
Finally, the bill would require licensing boards to list the criminal convictions that would lead to applicants being denied a license, and would allow applicants to petition licensing boards at any time to find out if they are eligible for a license. This adds much-needed transparency to the process.
Preventing local governments from creating new license requirements would cap local restrictions, and increased transparency takes away some of the discretionary power licensing boards have over who can enter their profession.
The most promising component of the reform is the waiver of licensing fees for the poor, members of the military, and their families. These populations, due to their lack of resources or high rates of mobility, face unique obstacles to becoming licensed.
Between HB 583 and SB 255, Ohio legislators are showing some promising initiative on licensing reform. Stay tuned for further developments.