July 3, 2019
By Heather Curry

In an exciting development for worker freedom, Governor Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania followed Arizona’s lead and signed a bipartisan reform that breaks down unnecessary regulatory barriers that keep people from getting a job. Pennsylvania is now the second state in the nation to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses, following the passage of landmark legislation championed by the Goldwater Institute and signed into Arizona law earlier this year.

Here’s why this reform is so critical: Americans put in time, money, and effort to obtain a government license so they can work in their field of choice. But if you hold an occupational license in one state and then move to a new state, you’re required to put in even more time and spend more money on training—just to practice a profession you have already been safely practicing elsewhere in your new home.

As in Arizona, Pennsylvania’s new law (HB 1172) knocks down those senseless barriers to work. Licensing boards in Pennsylvania are now required to issue occupational licenses to those who have met certain criteria, rather than asking established professionals to complete a new set of state-specific requirements. Applicants must already possess a comparable state license or certification in their field, be in good standing without any disciplinary actions, and not have committed any actions which might warrant refusal of a Pennsylvania license. If there are additional profession-specific requirements that must be met, applicants are to be issued provisional licenses so they can work while completing the process.

These reforms are especially beneficial to military family members who relocate frequently and often encounter costly and time-consuming additional requirements as they seek to re-license in each new state during the course of a career. By recognizing the licensing qualifications and years of prior experience held by professionals, Pennsylvania has sent a strong message that it values the time, dedication, and professional experience of military families and civilians.  

At the Goldwater Institute, we’ve long advocated for occupational licensing reform, including universal recognition. In 2017, we took on the case of behavioral health counselor Annette Stanley, who sought an Arizona license when she moved there from Kansas. Because Stanley had owned her own practice, the state of Arizona would not recognize hours accumulated for her Kansas license. Under new reforms developed by the Goldwater Institute, Stanley was able to ask the state Board of Behavioral Health Examiners to review the regulations keeping her from getting her Arizona license, and the Board granted her petition to allow her to practice in Arizona and changed its rules to allow others in similar circumstances to also do so.

The success of this important reform in Arizona and Pennsylvania demonstrates a growing bipartisan interest in protecting the right of American workers to earn a living no matter where they may choose to live and work. The Goldwater Institute’s model bill provides a framework for other states looking to welcome America’s skilled military and civilian workforce with open arms.

To learn more about the Goldwater Institute’s effort to support Americans’ freedom to work, please visit In Defense of Liberty.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.

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