As Beacon seeks to position Tennessee to lead the nation in innovation freedom, one of the biggest hurdles standing in the way is government red tape. Regulations stifle innovation and make it hard for Tennesseans to earn an honest living doing the job they love. While Tennessee is relatively free from onerous red tape, that cannot be said of its regulation in the form of occupational licensing.

The rising tide of government licensing has been drastic over the past half-decade. In 1950, just one in 20 workers required a license or certificate in order to obtain a job. Today, it’s close to 30 percent. Among those careers that now require a license to earn a living are fortunetellers, party planners, florists, shampoo assistants, beekeepers, and librarians—and that just scratches the surface.

Often touted as a means of ensuring public safety and protecting the public from bad actors, occupational licensing has instead often become a weapon to prevent competition in the marketplace. These barriers to entry are arbitrary, destructive to the economy, and fundamentally unfair—especially hurting low-income individuals relying on a particular skill to earn an honest living. These licensing regulations also make it difficult and sometimes impossible for new innovations to come to market.

To start reversing this trend, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a groundbreaking law in 2016. The Right to Earn a Living Act called upon the legislature to review the rules and regulations of state licensing boards and recommend the repeal of any that do not directly pertain to the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. The Right to Earn a Living Act has highlighted the drastic need reform and a plethora of opportunities to roll back government red tape, making it easier for hardworking Tennesseans to find a job or start a business. Since that groundbreaking law, Tennessee has led the nation in licensing reform, repealing more licensing laws than any other state. 

But more could be done. As Tennessee becomes a magnet for those fleeing other states, we must ensure that they can continue to work by recognizing any license they already hold. And we must eliminate regulations that stifle innovation and prevent new ideas from coming to fruition. Tackling occupational licensing red tape will help make Tennessee the most innovation- and job-friendly state in the nation.

Do you have an occupational licensing story to tell? Share it by clicking here.