Across the nation there is an increasingly evident issue regarding the ability of various industries to hire and maintain a workforce, due, in large part, to restrictive regulations regarding occupational licensing. This conversation has brought about a national awareness that has garnered interest, from Congress, to the Department of Labor, to state governments. In 2018, Gov. Brad Little, in his role then as acting governor, signed the Licensing Freedom Act requiring state agencies to search for, and report ways in which Idaho’s rules regarding occupational licensing could be reduced.
Coinciding with the Licensing Freedom Act, the Idaho House of Representatives Business Committee, in conjunction with the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee, established an interim committee in 2018 to address these issues. After multiple hearings, and testimony, a number of specific topics were identified, and plans were made to address these areas of concern. Through the rules process, as well as through legislation, we are now beginning to see results from these efforts and expect to see more as the session progresses.
Over the past several weeks in the House Business Committee, we have been adopting rule changes by many agencies. We have seen a strong effort at reducing the regulatory burden on individuals who desire to serve in various occupations, in addition to relieving the regulations upon those who currently perform these professions. Prior to the Licensing Freedom Act, and our interim committee, we were accustomed to debating the ongoing increase of licensing and fees placed upon Idaho workers, but this session has brought different issues before us.
Some of the reductions we have approved relate to fees, reducing the cost of those working in these professions. Other changes involve common sense reductions in regulatory requirements for obtaining licenses for various trades, ensuring those with the experience and a desire to work are able to do so. Additionally, some of our changes involve the implementation of requirements made in legislation such as combining the boards for barbers and cosmetologists, which have resulted in the cutting of costs to each of these occupations.
While many of these changes can be conducted by changing the rules in coordination with the various state agencies, some changes must be accomplished through changes to existing laws. By making these changes, we can codify regulatory freedom to these occupations, ensuring they can operate without burdensome restrictions in the future.
This session, we are already seeing an effort by agencies to increase efficiency by reducing costs and labor. This past week, I carried a bill on the floor for the Department of Insurance that is intended to streamline their procedures, and the Business Committee has more bills lined up that seek to achieve the same end. Some of these bills will seem like insignificant changes, but in reality, are small pieces of a bigger shift in bureaucratic practice.
In addition to the aforementioned improvement in the regulatory environment is the promise of a reduction in the promulgation of future rules. During his State of the State address, Gov. Little declared that he would require that two rules be removed for every one that is being implemented. The new administration is preparing legislation to help affect this change, and is expected to continue to further this approach to removing barriers to employment, as well as impediments to conducting business within Idaho.
These actions by our governor, and his new agency directors, are very encouraging, and should result in more freedom for businesses, and a reduction in inefficiency, which will save the state, and her citizens, time and money.
Sage Dixon, R-Ponderay, represents Bonner and Boundary counties in the Idaho House of Representatives, District 1A.