Mike Nichols, The Badger Institute

Mike Nichols, president, The Badger Institute.

(The Center Square) – A new study of the impact of Wisconsin's state-required licenses concludes reforms are necessary.

The Badger Institute and the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty on Monday released their report on occupational licensing that they say is a roadmap to reform.

“The state currently requires one million Wisconsinites to secure these government permission slips for 280 credential types,” the report states. “Licensing boards and advisory councils are empowered to establish standards for both license holders and those who aspire to the profession. These requirements can be used to fence out competition and artificially inflate prices for consumers.”

Everyone from barbers and hairdressers, to doctors and lawyers, to teachers and accountants, to art therapists and kickboxers in Wisconsin need a license in order to work.

The report’s authors, The Badger Institute’s Julie Grace and WILL’s Kyle Koenen, say reforming licensing in Wisconsin would unlock jobs for many people who cannot or do not get their state licenses.

“One lesson we’ve learned this year is that we should be making it easier — not harder — for Wisconsinites to work in their desired fields,” Grace said.

“As businesses around the state struggle to find people to work, excessive and often arbitrary occupational regulations serve as barriers for people moving to Wisconsin and entering the workforce,” Koenen added.

The report lays out four specific recommendations.

  • Universal license recognition: A law that would make it easier for qualified licensed workers from other states to get their license in Wisconsin by “recognizing” other states’ licenses.
  • Sunrise review: Whenever a bill is introduced to license a new occupation, a sunrise review would require the Legislative Audit Bureau or other independent agency to determine whether a license is necessary or whether a less restrictive form of regulation is appropriate.
  • Sunset review: This process is used to determine if existing licenses are justified and are the best option for protecting public health and safety. A sunset review would require an independent agency to review existing licenses on a set schedule to determine whether they are effective and necessary.
  • Right to Earn a Living: This measure would allow the judiciary to serve as a check on policymakers and regulators who create and uphold overly burdensome regulations. If individuals believe certain restrictions are infringing on their right to earn a living, they may challenge the regulations in court.

“The Legislature should adopt the Right to Earn a Living Act so that individuals may live, work and earn a living without unnecessary and overly burdensome restrictions,” Grace and Koenen wrote in their report. “Passing this law also would incentivize regulatory agencies to review their regulations and determine whether they are legitimate, necessary and tailored — a positive step that would go a long way toward creating a better and fairer regulatory environment centered on real public safety risk.”