Congress passes legislation to lessen burdensome occupational licensing

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In late July, Congress passed the Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act aimed at helping states begin long overdue occupational licensing reforms.

As describes in an article by the Washington Examiner, the bill includes the New HOPE Act, “which allows governors to use existing federal funds for technical education to review licenses or certifications that pose an unwarranted barrier to entry into the workforce and do not protect the health, safety, or welfare of consumers.”

Alabama 1st District U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne was a co-sponsor of the bill and instrumental in its passing. In a floor speech Byrne told his fellow representatives, “we have a skills crisis in our country. We actually have more job openings than we have unemployed Americans. This is keeping our economy from reaching full potential.

“So how we do solve this problem? Well, a big way is through expanding career and technical education programs. As the demands of the workforce continue to change and become more complex, these programs are critical to building the workforce of the 21st Century,” Byrne continued.

The original purpose of these licenses was to protect consumers from those who would offer them a bad or unsafe product or service; but over time license requirements became more extensive, costly, and now cover a numerous amount of vocations.

The Alabama Policy Institute (API)  released a report in January detailing how detrimental, and costly occupational licensure is to Alabama. According to the report, ”Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations, covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the state’s labor force.”

“We estimate the total initial costs of occupational licensure, excluding the educational costs, to be $122 million. Annual license renewal costs both workers and consumers (who often pay for these costs in increased prices) $45 million total,” the report continued.

“This bill won’t get nearly the attention it deserves, but this is a huge, bipartisan victory for students, businesses of all sizes, and the American people,” Byrne said in a press release. “By improving our nation’s career and technical education programs, we can better meet the demands and realities of the 21st Century economy and put more Americans to work.”

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