Occupational Licensing

Heeding Dutch: Mississippi Tackles the Tape and Occupational Licensing

Forty states celebrated Ronald Reagan Day on February 6th this past weekend, commemorating President Reagan’s legacy and timeless principles, including his prudent warnings against communism, unsustainable tax and spend policies, and unchecked government growth. While delivering his famous 1964 “A Time for Choosing” speech in support of Republican presidential nominee Barry Goldwater, Mr. Reagan famously stated, “A government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.” Unfortunately, this sentiment rings just as true today as it did in 1964: government rules and regulations continue to prove difficult to control or reduce as they become more politically and economically entrenched. 

Luckily, states like Mississippi are seeking to turn the regulatory tide. As part of an effort to drastically reduce the Magnolia State’s regulatory load, Mississippi’s Secretary of State Michael Watson announced his “Tackle the Tape Initiative” in July of 2020, which addresses the mountain of over 100,000 current state regulations. By cutting regulations “that are anticompetitive and do not substantially further the safety and well-being” of Mississippians, the initiative aims to increase economic opportunities and curtail the state’s loss of more than 13,000 jobs each year due to its licensing requirements. 

ALEC’s Act to Establish a Cap on Government Red Tape model policy similarly seeks to reduce the number of regulations in a state by mandating that a certain number of active regulatory requirements be retired for any proposed regulation to be enacted. 

As part of the Mississippi Tackle the Tape Initiative’s broader efforts, the “29 by 29” plan is worth noting. In partnership with public policy groups including ALEC, this plan aims to thoroughly review all 29 of Mississippi’s regulatory boards and commissions by 2029. The plan will act as a roadmap for analyzing the necessity and efficacy of Mississippi’s regulatory regime—which has expanded the number of jobs subject to licensure from 4% to 20% over the past 60 years—beginning with audits of the boards of Cosmetology, Barber Examiners, and Architects this year.  

Similar audits or “sunset reviews” have been utilized by 36 states—most notably Texas—to properly understand and manage their licensing requirements and to ultimately ensure that individuals and businesses have access to greater economic opportunities. While states vary in terms of which agencies they subject to sunset reviews, the general purpose is aimed at analyzing the economic costs of continued licensure and providing less-restrictive alternatives. 

While sunset reviews address the litany of active licenses and regulations, related “sunrise reviews” have been used by states to gauge the regulatory burden of proposed legislation. In a sunrise review, a review agency studies the potential safety and economic impacts of proposed rules and regulations prior to consideration by state legislators. These reports can better inform policymakers by outlining the potential costs and benefits of regulatory packages and by explaining how other states have approached similar licensing questions.  

Both sunrise and sunset reviews are featured in ALEC’s Occupational Licensing Review Act, which outlines how states can implement standards for analyzing licensing regulations. The ALEC model includes criteria that states can use to better understand the economic burdens of both proposed rules and active regulatory policies in order to promote economic freedom. 

Mississippi’s nascent 29 by 29 plan shines a spotlight on how a state can address the restrictions occupational licensing can place on economic opportunities. ALEC’s Occupational Licensing Review Act and Act to Establish a Cap on Government Red Tape offer best practices for starting these much needed processes of preventing and removing unnecessary barriers to entry. These policies offer a clear choice for states looking to heed President Reagan’s warning and ensure that government regulations are stripped of their immortality.