It’s Just Hair

Iowans don’t need industry insiders forcing
months or years of training before starting careers.

Example: 2,100 hours of school to cut or shampoo hair.

Legislators need to review licensing requirements so they can:

Identify, eliminate, and update regulations that are redundant and have no impact on public health or safety. 

Licensing requirements should be reasonable and designed to ensure the health and safety of consumers, but excessive requirements create an unnecessary, costly burden for hardworking Iowans.

Excessive and burdensome occupational licensing laws serve as a red tape tax that disproportionately impact Iowa’s working class. These laws make it more difficult and expensive for Iowans to earn a living and fill high-demand jobs. Job licensing exists to protect the public, but in many cases, the licensing requirements, or the license itself, do not make sense. It is necessary for lawmakers to consider legislation that establishes a full review process of all of Iowa’s occupational licenses to make sure that the licenses and licensing requirements currently on the books make sense and truly serve to protect the public—not just provide a bigger barrier for hardworking Iowans.

The Iowa State Legislature and Governor took a giant leap forward in the improvement of Iowa’s licensing standing in 2020 with the passage of legislation that recognizes out-of-state occupational licenses for those practicing in a licensed field who choose to move to Iowa. Iowa led the way nationally by taking this aspect further by also recognizing work experience for those who live in a state that may not require a license for their current occupation. The legislation additionally eased restrictions for ex-offenders to enter licensed occupations where the respective licensing board deems appropriate, rather than permanently banning these individuals from working in licensed fields. Fee waivers were also put in place to help reduce the cost burden on low-income, first-time license applicants.

The efforts made in 2020 were monumental, but there is still progress to be made. According to a 2018 report by the Institute for Justice, Iowa is the 2nd-most licensed state in the U.S., with 24.3% of the state’s workforce requiring a license to do their jobs. In the 1950s, only 5% of the workforce nationally required a license to work.

Occupational licenses that protect the health and wellbeing of citizens make sense and are practical, but onerous licensing requirements can create a barrier for Iowa’s most vulnerable. Unnecessary and excessive barriers are pricing people out of the workforce.

At a legislative round table co-hosted by Iowans for Tax Relief, a business owner said with respect to job licensing: “These types of things are causing a problem for [single parents] and their kids. We need to get that under control because there’s only so much an employer like me can do to help make up for the situation that, in essence, the state has put them in.”

Nebraska and Ohio addressed this problem by creating a cyclical review process of all their state’s occupational licenses. All licenses and licensing requirements are evaluated every five to six years to determine if the requirements, and each license itself, are necessary. Iowa should consider similar measures, given the high percentage of the state’s workforce that requires a license to do their jobs.

The Iowa State Legislature and Governor took bold efforts to improve Iowa’s licensing situation last year by making it easier for skilled workers from other states to move to Iowa and continue working. It is time to take the next step for Iowans who are already living in Iowa who desire to join a licensed profession. Licensing requirements should be reasonable and designed to ensure the health and safety of consumers, but excessive requirements create an unnecessary, costly burden for hardworking Iowans. The time is now to pass legislation that reviews all of Iowa’s licenses and licensing requirements to ensure that they are reasonable and best for all Iowans.


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