Guest Columnist

Iowa has opened the door of economic opportunity

Universal recognition of professional licenses will help Iowa prosper

A barbershop on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, in Iowa City. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)
A barbershop on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011, in Iowa City. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

Residents of the Hawkeye state have long known that Iowa is a great place to live and raise a family. Thanks to a new law, many U.S. residents will have the opportunity to learn this firsthand.

State Sen. Waylon Brown shared the same sentiment and notes that the bill is “about removing unnecessary barriers and creating pathways for individuals wanting to relocate in our state to live, work and raise their families.”

Iowa is advancing freedom with licensing reform

Why do licensed shampooers in Iowa undergo more training than police officers?

The centerpiece of the bill is universal recognition. Under universal recognition, a licensed professional moving to Iowa can begin practicing without going through the full application process.

Because licensing laws are passed by states, states often have different requirements for the same profession, making it difficult to move between states and work. For instance, Iowa requires that cosmetologists have 2,100 hours of training, while nearby Illinois, Kansas, and Minnesota require around 1,500 hours of training. HF 2627 makes it much easier for licensed cosmetologists from these states with a year of experience and no complaints to move to Iowa and begin working instead of returning to school to relearn tasks they have already mastered with professional experience.

How much easier? Arizona began universal recognition last August. Since then, 1,186 people have used the process to move and begin working in the state. And now Iowa has made it just as easy.

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But Iowa goes one step further than other states that have universal recognition. For people moving from states that do not require a license to work, Iowa will accept work experience — a first of its kind reform. Often, professions that are licensed in one state are not licensed in others. This can make moving difficult for someone who has experience, but not the credentials required in their new state. This is important in Iowa, which licenses 71 low- and moderate-skilled occupations, many of which are not licensed in all 50 states.

This bill also offers a pathway to employment for the formerly incarcerated. Licensing laws often contain “good moral character” provisions, creating roadblocks for those with a criminal record. Under HF 2627, boards can only exclude those whose convictions are relevant to their job performance. This prevents people from being excluded from meaningful work for past mistakes, giving them a second chance.

The law does not solve all problems with respect to occupational licensing. Residents of the state are still forced to navigate an unwieldy web of regulations that might be too difficult for many to overcome. Common-sense reforms like universal recognition will set up Iowa to continue to prosper. Hopefully this will be the first of many reforms to open the door of economic opportunity for all residents of the Hawkeye state.

Conor Norris is a research analyst and Edward Timmons is director of the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation. Timmons is also professor of economics at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania.

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