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Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger Introduces Legislation to Reform Occupational Licensing

May 12, 2021

Washington, DC- Today, Congresswoman Diana Harshbarger, with support of the Republican Study Committee, introduced the Freedom to Work Act to encourage states and the federal government to roll back burdensome, job killing occupational licensing regulations.

Studies show that occupational licensing regulation costs taxpayers $203 Billion every year, reduces the number of American jobs by 2.85 million and overwhelmingly harms low-income workers. Right now, approximately one in four occupations require a license, compared to just 5% sixty years ago.

“With return to work slowing back to a crawl under President Biden’s failing leadership, we need to look at new ways to help Americans re-enter the workforce,” said Congresswoman Harshbarger. “Many occupational licensing requirements, under the guise of consumer safety, are simply a big government power grab to prevent competition and keep would-be workers out of a particular job market. My bill, the Freedom to Work Act, directs states and the federal government to identify unnecessary occupational licensing barriers that are preventing Americans from returning to the workplace. I’m committed to eliminating red tape that is keeping Americans out of work, and the Freedom to Work Act does just that.”

The Freedom to Work Act:

  • Directsfederal executive agencies to regularly review policies that may cause states to adopt unnecessary occupational licensing requirements.
  • Requires federal agencies to submit a report to the President and Congress recommending less restrictive alternatives to licensing, where appropriate.
  • Requires states to include how they plan to reduce occupational licensing barriers and any broader occupational licensing reforms in their Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) plans.

Support for the Freedom to Work Act

Tori Venable, State Director, Americans for Prosperity – Tennessee: “The federal Freedom to Work Act combined with the state-based Right to Earn a Living Act will allow Tennessee to lead the way in removing barriers to employment. People should not be required to get a government permission slip to work. Nor should WIOA funds be wasted on ‘certifications’ that do not lead to actual employment. We applaud Representative Harshbarger’s efforts and look forward to removing burdensome government regulations that prevent people getting back to work.”

Ron Shultis, Beacon Impact Director of Policy: “Beacon has long fought for Tennesseans' right to earn a living by slashing occupational licensing red tape. We've made great strides to eliminate needless licensing laws, but more needs to be done. We are grateful for leaders like Rep. Harshbarger for elevating the profile of this important issue to the national stage with the Freedom to Work Act. Hopefully, Congress will give this the attention it deserves.”

Patrice Onwuka, Director, Center for Economic Opportunity, Independent Women’s Voice (IWV): “The Freedom to Work Act attempts to encourage important occupational licensing reforms that can directly help women. It directs federal agencies to use their oversight authority to identify laws and regulations that may contribute to excessive licensure. The bill also holds states accountable for making efforts to reduce occupational licensure barriers. Women pay a heavier price from occupational licensing than men and these reforms can empower them to pursue opportunity. IWV supports this bill and thanks Rep. Diana Harshbarger for her leadership on this issue and urges all Members of Congress to join her and support the Freedom to Work Act.”