Stephanie WhittExecutive Vice President
The rising tide of government licensing has been drastic over the past half-century. In 1950, just one in 20 American workers required a license or certificate to obtain a job. Today, it is estimated that up to 30% of Americans need government permission to earn a living. Yet these licensing laws are often a patchwork across the various states. Surprisingly, Tennessee ranks as the 12th most onerous state for licensing. This prevents many people seeking economic opportunity from moving to Tennessee. Individuals in licensed occupations have been found to have a 36% lower interstate migration rate compared to those in non-licensed professions. This is especially relevant here, as Tennessee is the only state besides Missouri to border eight other states. Unfortunately, while many “white collar” professions—such as doctors and accountants—already have reciprocity, many “blue collar” licensed professions do not. If a doctor can travel across state lines and perform heart surgery the next day, a barber or locksmith should be able to come to Tennessee and cut hair or change locks.
We should protect the right to earn a living by granting universal licensing reciprocity to every occupation for those licensed in another state who move to Tennessee. As an in-migration state, Tennessee should make sure it’s not just “open for business,” but open for workers. Streamlining licensing for new residents would also help solve the shortage of skilled workers that businesses in our state face.
What the Bill Does
The Licensing Independence for Future Tennesseans (LIFT) Act is very simple. If you have worked in a licensed profession in another state for at least one year and are in good standing, you are eligible to receive a Tennessee license, regardless of hours or educational differences. New residents would still be required to pay a fee and take any specific state law exam. Once receiving their license, new licensed residents would be required to fulfill Tennessee requirements for renewal like continuing education hours. For professions with state-specific scopes of practice, newly licensed residents would be bound to Tennessee’s scope of practice. Lastly, for any occupation that has an existing interstate compact, the compact would supersede the LIFT Act. Thus, the LIFT Act only extends reciprocity to those occupations that currently do not have any.
Who This Impacts
Andy Judd moved to Tennessee after working as a licensed cosmetologist in New York for four years. Despite being licensed in both Ohio and his home state of New York, Andy was told that he would need to go back to school since Tennessee required more hours of schooling than New York. Unable to work and earn a living, Andy re-enrolled in cosmetology school and was even initially denied student loan funding from the federal government, which determined that he didn’t need the additional hours after already being licensed in two states. So he had to pay out of pocket for additional hours that he did not even need, just to keep working in a job he was licensed in two states to perform. When even the federal government has heartburn about spending money, you know your state has taken red tape too far.