Trio of licensing reform bills advance to House floor

Trio of licensing reform bills advance to House floor

Three proposals that would ease occupational licensing restrictions have reached the House floor, passing unanimously out of committee.

Lawmakers in Springfield could soon vote on a trio of bills in the Illinois House of Representatives that could ease restrictions for some occupational license holders.

The proposals – House Bills 5208, 5210 and 5211 – were filed Feb. 15 by state Rep. Tom Demmer, R-Dixon, and passed unanimously April 10 in the Business and Occupational Licenses Committee. One committee member refrained from voting.

Each bill, if passed, would be a modest but essential step toward disentangling some licensed professions from unnecessary regulatory burdens.

One of these bills would address the unusual age requirements that come with certain professions in the housing industry. For example, one must be a minimum age of 21 to pursue a career as a home inspector or community association manager, according to state law. HB 5208 would reduce this age barrier to 18.

HB 5210 should also find favor among those in the real estate field. State law currently requires that brokers obtain a license for every branch office they operate in the state. HB 5210 would eliminate this rule, replacing it instead with the requirement that brokers simply notify the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation in regard to each new office.

HB 5211 would allow certain professionals such as real estate brokers, clinical psychologists, medical practitioners and social workers to offer their services through the establishment of professional limited liability companies, or PLLCs. The schedule of recertification for these PLLCs would be once every three years.

Regulations governing licensed professions are often arcane and obscure, but nevertheless can have major effects on Illinois workers. Further, the caveat that such regulations are essential to public health and safety is often taken for granted. As a study from the Institute for Justice has shown, a considerable number of these laws relate neither to health nor safety.

On the contrary, licensing boards are often composed of established industry players inclined to use licensure as a buffer against competition posed by newcomers. Rather than protecting consumers from perceived dangers, these kinds of laws frequently protect industry incumbents threatened by greater consumer choice. Food trucks in Chicago offer one example of a sector rich with opportunity, but stifled by its local government’s heavy-handed – and protectionist – regulatory treatment.

Advancing Senate Bill 2439 to the governor’s desk is another step Springfield could take in the direction of sound licensure reform. SB 2439, filed by state Sen. Scott Bennett, D-Champaign, would disallow the state from revoking workers’ occupational licenses for defaulting on student loan debt. This would protect the career stability of those already struggling under the weight of student loans.

Lawmakers should follow Demmer and Bennett’s lead. Relaxing occupational barriers is just one feasible reform policymakers could pursue to rehabilitate Illinois’ shrinking labor force. Allowing these proposals to move past the barriers of the Statehouse would be a good place to start.

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