Today, Mississippi has joined a growing movement of states that are protecting hardworking Americans and their right to earn a living by enacting a law based on the Goldwater Institute’s landmark Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act.
With the signing of House Bill 1263, Governor Tate Reeves has made Mississippi the latest state to recognize out-of-state occupational licenses. First enacted in Arizona in 2019, universal recognition is an innovative Goldwater Institute reform that makes it easier for skilled professionals to get to work when they relocate across state lines. Since universal recognition went into effect in Arizona in late 2019, more than 2,800 licenses have been granted in the state, in fields ranging from engineering to cosmetology to medicine.
“This law is one of the easiest, best things we can do to encourage people to move to Mississippi,” said Dr. Jameson Taylor, Senior Vice President for Policy at the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, who was present for the signing. “If someone has invested thousands of dollars to obtain the education and experience necessary to get an occupational license, we should open the door for them to move to Mississippi and get a Mississippi license.”
Mississippi’s new recognition law builds on the successful passage of last year’s Military Family Freedom Act, a reform which extended licensing recognition to military members and their families. Both of Mississippi’s new laws have their origins in the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act, model legislation developed by the Goldwater Institute and the Institute for Justice.
Why does universal recognition matter? Currently, one in four jobs in America requires an occupational license—a government permission slip to work. In many states, regulatory disparities mean out-of-state applicants are forced to spend extra time and money to complete additional testing or training just to be relicensed to do the same job they’ve already been doing. Under Mississippi’s new law, if an individual has held an out-of-state license in good standing for at least one year, he or she is qualified to apply for and be quickly approved for a license at a similar scope of practice in Mississippi.
In addition to recognizing out-of-state licenses, Mississippi’s new law also creates a pathway to licensure for professionals with work experience. So long as a person has worked for three years in a given field at a similar scope of practice, they are eligible to apply to receive a Mississippi license. The addition of this pathway ensures that hardworking Americans aren’t locked out of work simply because some states approach regulation differently than others. Recently, Iowa also enacted a version of universal recognition that includes work experience, and this trend will only continue to grow.
The Mississippi law also contains a provision requiring boards to make clear on their websites that universal recognition is an available pathway. This will ensure that professionals are aware of their rights under the new law, and is similar to a Goldwater Institute law passed in Arizona earlier this month. House Bill 1263 further requires licensing boards to compile and make public data about the effect of universal recognition.
Mississippi is not alone in pursuing this essential reform. Arizona, Montana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, and Wyoming have passed their own universal recognition laws to benefit a broad range of professionals. Other states including Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, and Ohio have passed versions that benefit military families, recognizing, as Mississippi did, that military families are often disproportionately impacted by costly and time-consuming regulation. A number of other states have passed limited versions of recognition, offering opportunities for future legislative action to further strengthen their reforms.
While Mississippi is the latest state to remove regulatory hurdles for licensed professionals, still others may achieve similar reforms before the 2021 legislation session ends. This session, more than 20 states, from Kansas to West Virginia, have introduced versions of universal recognition, with a number of bills advancing through committee and out of their houses or origin.
The Goldwater Institute thanks Governor Reeves for his leadership on this issue and applauds the legislative champions of House Bill 1263, Representative Becky Currie and Senator Angela Hill. We were thrilled to work alongside the Mississippi Center for Public Policy, the Institute for Justice, and Americans for Tax Reform on this important reform.
To learn about how universal recognition can benefit professionals in your state, please contact Heather Curry (firstname.lastname@example.org)