The right to use our talents, skills, and labor to earn a living is essential to freedom because it allows us to be independent, productive members of society. But government is increasingly forcing us to get permission to practice a trade, or start a business.

Lauren Boice of Arizona is a case in point. She started her business, Angels on Earth Home Beauty, after witnessing firsthand how beauty services lifted the spirits of homebound patients. Her unique business connects the elderly, sick, and terminally ill, with licensed cosmetologists who can perform haircuts, manicures, or massages right in clients’ homes. Lauren’s services have been in high demand.

But the Arizona Board of Cosmetology had its own demands. It told Lauren it would regulate her phone business as if it were a beauty salon. The Board forced Lauren – who does not practice cosmetology – to get licensed and open a physical salon, even though her homebound clients would never visit it.

The Goldwater Institute took Lauren’s fight to court to defend her constitutional right to earn a living and help her sick clients. After a 16-month legal battle, the Board agreed to a binding settlement, assuring it would never regulate Lauren or other businesses like hers.

This is a great victory for freedom. Thanks to this settlement, entrepreneurs like Lauren Boice can focus on serving their clients rather than navigating the Board’s labyrinth of red tape.

But many still find themselves at the mercy of regulatory boards that stifle innovation, deprive entrepreneurs like Lauren of their right to earn a living, and punish those who provide services to the public.

The Goldwater Institute drafted the “Right to Earn a Living Act” to help solve that problem. The Right to Earn a Living Act is a state law that requires government to prove some real risk to the public before it can restrict entrepreneurs’ freedom. You can read more about the Right to Earn a Living Act here.

Last year, Arizona became the first state to enact the Right to Earn a Living act, protecting entrepreneurs like Lauren for good. In signing the bill into law, Governor Doug Ducey said: “The opportunity to earn a living and pursue the American dream is a right promised to every citizen. But too often, government stands in the way, imposing unnecessary barriers meant only to serve entrenched interests. Today’s bill is a positive step toward ending that unfair practice.”

The Right to Earn a Living Act does two primary things:

  • First, the legislation simply requires that any regulation that limits participation in a job or profession “be limited to those demonstrated to be necessary to specifically fulfill a public health, safety, or welfare concern.”
  • Second, if a regulation is on the books that violates the law, a person harmed by the regulation can ask the agency to repeal or modify the restriction. If the agency decides not to change or repeal the regulation, the person can challenge the agency’s decision in court. The Right to Earn a Living Act changes the way courts must interpret agency regulations. Instead of automatically assuming the agency has the authority to restrict entry into a profession, courts would assume they don’t have that authority unless the regulation is “demonstrated to be necessary to specifically fulfill a public health, safety, or welfare concern.”

The Institute released a report and model legislation creating the Right to Earn a Living Act in 2016. The Institute’s previous work on occupational licensing was also cited in the Obama Administration’s creation of best practices for state lawmakers.