Lawmakers should loosen existing licensing laws, not add new ones

Generally, compared to most states, Minnesota licenses fewer occupations. However, we also license occupations that are rarely licensed in other states, and we do so much more onerously. Not to mention that our licensing burden has been growing faster compared to most other states.

According to research from the Institute of Justice (IJ), in 2017, Minnesota licensed only 34 of the 102 (33 percent) lower-income occupations studied by IJ, ranking as the 46th most broadly and onerously licensed state. At the same time, however, the Institute of Justice noted that Minnesota required licenses for about four occupations that other states did not license, which dragged us to 29th on licensing burden.

For instance, Minnesota licenses dental assistants, who are only licensed in eight other states. And while nationally, dental assistants on average pay $138 in fees, spend 92 days on education and experience, and write one exam, in Minnesota, they pay $681 in fees, spend 425 days on education and training, and write three exams.

Additionally, in 2018, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked Minnesota 11th among the states for its rate of increase in the breadth and burden of occupational licensing between 2012 and 2017.

Not much reform this session

Since the beginning of this year’s legislative session at the end of January, about 15 bills relating to occupational licensing have been introduced in the legislature. And unfortunately, our legislators are more focused on worsening this trend of increasing licensing burden than reversing it.

Out of the 15 bills, for example, five deal with introducing new licenses, which if passed, will push us down the rankings.

Sure, there are some good bills, like HF 3403, which calls for an establishment of a preliminary licensing application. If passed, applicants can check whether some aspects of their background — like criminal history — potentially make them ineligible for licensing. This rule would ensure that applicants do not spend time and money and resources applying and training for licenses that they would potentially be ineligible for.

Outside of that, however, very little effort has been made to improve Minnesota’s licensing burden and reverse this worsening trend. This is in contrast to efforts being undertaken in other states to lessen the burden of occupational licensing laws.

Minnesotans could use reform

While not the worst state for licensing, Minnesota has some room for improvement, especially considering our increasing burden. Legislators should put more effort into reforming our licensing rules this session rather than adding new laws. And a good place to start would be these three things detailed in our policy brief:

  1. Enact universal licensure recognition.
  2. Adopt registration, certification and inspection for low-risk occupation.
  3. Reinstate the Minnesota Sunset Act to make sure that irrelevant and ineffective laws are repealed.