Nationally, there is a wide disparity in licensing regulations. This patchwork of discrete regulations gives reformers two options: to throw their weight behind repealing individual licensing requirements one at a time, or creating a regular review process so all licensing requirements are routinely scrutinized.
Ohio has adopted the second approach by enacting the most impressive and comprehensive approach to licensing reform in the nation.
The key provision of HB 255, just signed into law by Governor John Kasich, requires all licensing boards to undergo a periodic review. All boards would be reviewed every six years. This makes it similar to another reform passed in Nebraska last year, with one key difference. If the legislature fails to re-certify a licensing board:
[a]n occupational licensing board shall be triggered to expire at the end of the thirty-first day of December of the sixth year after it was created or last renewed, or on December 31, 2024, whichever is later, and shall expire at the end of the thirtieth day of June of the following year after the board was triggered to expire. The expiration of an occupational licensing board under this section emancipates a person to lawfully engage in the profession, occupation, or occupational activity, which has been previously licensed by that board, without an occupational license, notwithstanding any law of the state that requires a person to possess a license to lawfully engage in that profession, occupation, or occupational activity. [Emphasis added].
The reform also includes another common-sense fix. It allows ex-cons to petition a licensing board to determine if a previous conviction would prevent them from becoming licensed before they jump through the hoops required to become licensed.
The annual review process coupled with automatic sunset failing reauthorization, by far the most exciting part of the legislation, puts licensing boards permanently on the defensive. Every six years, they must prove to the legislature that such a regulation should exist.
Further, they can no longer rely on status-quo bias to save them. Louisiana, the nation’s only state to license florists, has been the target of licensing critics for years due to this laughable regulation. Even so, repealing the requirement has been fought tooth-and-nail by its beneficiaries (a bill to repeal the requirement has been sitting in committee since April of last year).
In the rest of the country, 21st-century guilds can just run out the clock or hope lawmakers lose interest. In the Buckeye state, the script has been flipped.