At the beginning of the legislative session, Gov. Kim Reynolds listed occupational licensing reform among her top priorities. Republicans in the Iowa Legislature are answering her call with an impressive slate of freedom-to-work proposals.
Iowa imposes some of the nation’s most extreme restrictions on people trying to earn a living. The state government requires licenses for more professions than most other states, while the costs and time involved often exceed common practices, hampering Iowa’s economic activity by millions of dollars each year.
A bill proposed by Reynolds would go a long way toward improving the situation. House Study Bill 647 would protect convicts from having their licenses denied, provide recognition of other states’ licenses and limit the fees involved. Several more bills would ease licensing requirements in specific industries or otherwise make improvements to the overgrown regulatory system.
Beyond licensing, things get more interesting. Many other proposals would get the government out of workers’ way in smaller but still important ways. It’s especially exciting to see legislation that would empower Iowa’s bustling networks of micro-businesses and solo-entrepreneurs.
One Waterloo man has become an unofficial spokesman for the movement to deregulate entrepreneurship. William Burt was incarcerated several times as a teenager and young adult, and developed skills as a barber while serving time in an Iowa prison.
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Now, Burt holds a college degree and owns a small bus outfitted to serve as a mobile barber shop. However, such businesses are not permitted under Iowa law. A bill in the Iowa Legislature, House File 2195, would allow mobile barber shops and has earned praise from the governor and the Iowa Cosmetology School Association.
Other bills would ease government restrictions on people who sell food.
Senate FIle 2035 is what’s commonly known as a cottage food law. It would allow Iowans to make certain food items at home and sell them in public with a label. Current law only allows people to sell homemade food at their own homes.
Two bills appear to be aimed at the unfortunate legal pressure lemonade stands occasionally encounter, a problem so concerning that it led Country Time to develop a “legal-ade” program.
In 2011, Iowa made national news when children selling cold drinks were shut down by the Coralville Police Department. RAGBRAI brought thousands of visitors to town that summer, and the city enforced restrictions meant to protect the vendors who paid to be there.
My friend Dustin Krutsinger and his 4-year-old daughter were among the victims of the Coralville crackdown. He told The Gazette at the time, “If the line is drawn to the point where a 4-year-old eight blocks away can’t sell a couple glasses of lemonade for 25 cents, then I think the line has been drawn at the wrong spot.”
House File 2238 would exempt some food stands operated by minors from the state’s regulations on restaurants, as long as they don’t sell temperature-controlled foods or alcohol. Bring on the lemonade.
Senate File 2241 would bar cities and counties from requiring minors to obtain a permit for businesses that operate for fewer than 90 days during a one-year period, clearing the way for ventures like snow removal and lawn mowing. That bill was approved last week by Republicans in the Senate State Government Committee, but opposed by five Democrats.
Even some legislative Democrats are getting in on the freedom-loving fun. House File 2378, sponsored by a group of Democrats, would allow registered in-home child care providers - the shining examples of community entrepreneurship - to exceed the legal child-to-staff ratio when local schools are cancelled or delayed.
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Commerce is a fundamental human right. With proposals like these, Iowa is looking to unleash the people’s entrepreneurial potential.
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