TN Legislators Should Protect the Right to Earn a Living in 2017


January 11, 2017 11:01AM

During the 2016 legislative session, the Tennessee General Assembly became the first state in the nation to pass the Right to Earn a Living Act, a groundbreaking new law which calls upon the legislature to review the rules and regulations of the state’s occupational licensing boards. This process empowers lawmakers to have greater oversight over these bureaucratic authorities and recommend the repeal of any limitations that do not directly pertain to the health, safety, and welfare of the general public. Should a board not comply with the request for repeal, the legislature has the prerogative to disband or “sunset” that board’s authority and rule-making ability.

Passing the Right to Earn a Living Act also allows legislators to take a serious look at whether the state should require a license for certain professions in the first place. What used to be a process required for 5 percent of the workforce a few decades ago has ballooned to over 30 percent. The costs and time associated with obtaining these licenses can be extensive, placing those with low-incomes at a distinct disadvantage. Among the careers or services that some states now require a license to earn a living are fortunetellers, party planners, florists, shampoo assistants, beekeepers, librarians—and that’s just scratching the surface.

As the state legislature, lead by the oversight of the Government Operations committees in the house and senate, walks through the implementation of the Right to Earn a Living Act in 2017, members can also take additional measures to ensure that we stem the rising tide of senseless restrictions on those seeking to utilize particular skill sets that help provide for themselves and their families.

Here is our legislative agenda on occupational licensing reform in 2017:

– Implement the Right to Earn a Living Act, with the assistance of the Beacon Center’s how-to guide for lawmakers charged with overseeing the review process.

– Call for a moratorium on any new state licensure that does not obviously and unequivocally pertain to the health, safety, and welfare of the general public.

– Begin to pivot away from onerous licensure processes that require unnecessary education and/or costly fees and instead, promote alternative processes such as state certification that protects consumers as well as job seekers.

– Remove barriers to entry for those exiting the criminal justice system seeking to restore their lives by finding gainful employment or making use of their marketable skills.

By adopting the above policies, legislators can reposition our state as one that encourages competition, protects consumers, and empowers the individual to pursue their version of the American Dream.