The Legislature should reinstate the Sunset Advisory Commission

About one in every five Minnesotans has an occupation that requires a license. According to a 2017 report by the Institute of Justice (IJ), Minnesotans spend an average of $238 in fees, write two exams, and undertake 300 days of training to get licensed. Compared to most states, Minnesota licenses fewer occupations. In 2017, for example, Minnesota only licensed 34 of the 102 (33 percent) lower-income occupations studied by IJ, ranking the 46th most broadly and onerously licensed state.

Despite these favorable rankings, however, Minnesota’s licensing burden has been growing faster than that of other states. In 2018, the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranked Minnesota 11th among states for its growth in breadth and burden of occupational licensing between 2012 and 2017. Additionally, Minnesota licenses occupations that are rarely licensed in other states, and does so onerously.

This is problematic for the state. Occupational licensing keeps low-income individuals out of lucrative professions, restricts supply and raises prices for goods and services, deters economic mobility, increases inequality, and reduces geographic mobility. Additionally, there is very little evidence indicating that licensing improves quality or safety.

This is a trend that needs to be reversed. One of the actions that the legislature can undertake in order to halt and reverse the growing licensing burden is to reinstate the Sunset Advisory Commission, which was repealed in 2013.

What does a sunset advisory commission do?

A sunset review process is generally adopted in order to evaluate the continued relevancy of a government program, agency, or rule. In 2011, the Minnesota legislature passed a law enacting the Sunset Advisory Commission, whose role was to periodically analyze various Minnesota government agencies to ensure their relevancy.

Between 2011 and 2013, the commission analyzed numerous agencies, including multiple licensing agencies, like the Nursing Board. The commission provided reports of said agencies showing whether they were relevant, whether any changes could be made to improve their operations, and more importantly, whether there were less restrictive licensing requirements agencies could undertake in place of existing rules.

These reports were sent to the Legislature, which then chose whether to enact the recommendations made by the Sunset Review Commission.

When the commission reviewed the Nursing Board, for example, one of their recommendations was for Minnesota to join the Nurse Licensure Compact in order to reduce redundancy in nurse licensure. At the time, about 24 states were in the compact. Since then, 10 more states have joined the compact — but not Minnesota.

As American Experiment has shown, joining the Nurse Licensure Compact would be a good policy, as it would allow “Minnesotans access to a larger pool of trained healthcare professionals.” In general, reforms that reduce licensing burdens across the board would benefit Minnesotans.

It is not clear why the commission was repealed, but it was certainly a good resource in keeping agencies in check and ensuring Minnesotans are not burdened by redundant or overly restrictive laws. Legislators need to bring it back.