January 15, 2020
By Heather Curry
The Virginia General Assembly has begun its 2020 legislative session, and advocates for worker freedom will find early cause to celebrate in House Bill 982. Introduced by Delegate Michael J. Webert, this bill directs Virginia’s licensing entities to grant occupational licenses to professionals in good standing who have held an out-of-state license in their field for at least one year. Virginia is the latest state to take steps to break down barriers to work, following in Arizona’s path of passing this Goldwater Institute-backed reform.
Why does this legislation matter? In nearly every state, licensed professionals looking to relocate are frequently required to jump through redundant regulatory hoops simply to continue working in their field in their new state. Licensing boards are free to impose additional testing or training requirements, adding cost and extending the amount of time it takes to become licensed. Additionally, board requirements can vary drastically from state to state, ensuring that even the most well-trained and experienced workers can run afoul of licensing roadblocks.
Under Delegate Webert’s proposal, licensed professionals relocating to Virginia will still be required to apply for a license and demonstrate they have been safely practicing in their field for a year, but they will no longer be required to duplicate training or testing simply to continue working. Additionally, this legislation recognizes work experience and private certification as a path toward licensing, should Virginia require a license for an occupation where the originating state did not. These reforms are particularly important in Virginia, a state which the Institute for Justice has previously evaluated to have the seventh most burdensome licensing regulations for low-income occupations in the country. By acknowledging the experience and training of America’s workforce, this legislation allows skilled professionals to continue their careers more seamlessly when they transition into the Commonwealth.
Alongside the Institute for Justice, the Goldwater Institute has long advocated for reforms that protect the rights of American workers to earn a living no matter where they may choose to live. In 2019, Arizona became the first state in the nation to recognize out-of-state licenses, adopting a Goldwater-based law. At the time, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey explained, “We know that whether you make your living as a plumber, a barber, a nurse, or anything else, you don’t lose your skills simply because you pack up a U-Haul truck and make the decision to move to Arizona.” Arizona’s legislators agreed, passing the bill with bipartisan support in both houses of the legislature. The bill went into effect on September 1, 2019.
Following Arizona’s lead, Pennsylvania recently became the second state to adopt a version of universal recognition. Pennsylvania’s bill was also a bipartisan success in both houses and was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. Across the country, legislators are examining their state regulatory regimes and finding cause for reform. In early December, Ohio’s legislature passed a bill extending out-of-state licensing reciprocity to members of the military and their families. There is a legislative effort currently underway to extend out-of-state licensing reciprocity to everyone in the Buckeye State, and more states are sure to follow.
Virginia’s legislature has previously recognized the importance of easing regulatory burdens on workers, notably approving House Bill 883 in 2018. That legislation, also introduced by Delegate Webert, created a pilot program designed to cut red tape and reduce licensing burdens. It passed with bipartisan support and was signed by Governor Ralph Northam. With this new bill in 2020, Virginia’s legislators have an exciting opportunity to continue build on the pro-worker reforms of previous sessions, eliminating barriers to work and making Virginia a more welcoming place for workers from across the country.
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.