Conor Norris and Edward Timmons: Utah has become a national leader on occupational licensing reform

(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer) In this Jan. 27 photo, the Utah Senate floor is viewed during the Utah legislative session in Salt Lake City.

Most people know the Beehive State for its spectacular mountain views and hiking. But Utah residents know that Utah is also one of the best states to live and work in. And policymakers in Utah just made it easier for people to move and begin working in the prospering state.

The Utah Legislature just passed Senate Bill 23, which implements several significant reforms to current licensing laws.

The most important reform in SB23 is universal access. Universal access allows American workers not currently living in Utah who have held licenses in good standing for a year or more to move to Utah and begin working.

Because individual states pass licensing laws, it makes it difficult to move to a new state and start working in a licensed profession. This new law makes it easier for professionals who have already earned a licensed in another state to move to Utah and begin working.

Utah joins Arizona in taking the lead to make it easier to move into their state, and several other states have proposed similar laws. Arizona became the first state to accept out-of-state licenses last year and its already making an impact. In that first year, over 750 people have used the law to take their talents to Arizona. That’s 750 more professionals, plus their spouses and children, who were able to move for a better life for themselves and join communities and grow the local economy.

Universal recognition still ensures that professionals prove their skills and abilities before moving to a new state. But it trusts other states’ licensing bodies, as we do for many other things. When people move, we don’t make them wait months and retake driving tests to get a drivers’ license. We trust the state that issued the driver’s licenses, and now Utah trusts them for occupational licenses, too.

Uprooting your life to move to a new state is already difficult for your personal life, and expensive. The barriers posed by licensing are an additional hardship. Utah just alleviated one of those burdens by allowing people to move to the state without forcing them to take time off of work to demonstrate what they have already proved.

Attracting people to move to Utah is essential to help grow the state economy and bring in additional talent. This will encourage people to move to the state and help them join the community right away. Shortages of skilled workers can immediately be alleviated.

In addition to breaking down barriers for individuals looking to move to Utah, the legislation also makes important reforms for current residents who may have made a mistake in their past. Overly broad good moral character provisions from licensing requirements are removed for many professions.

Having good moral character is important, whether we’re talking about a friend or a professional service provider. However, in practice this provision is used to exclude qualified professionals for past mistakes that are unrelated to the service they provide. It hurts the formerly incarcerated trying to turn their lives around and increases recidivism.

Finally, SB23 modifies regulations during times of crisis to allow licensed professionals from other states to temporarily practice in Utah. Whether it’s a natural disaster or a virus like the coronavirus, health care professionals can come to the state and immediately provide relief when citizens and the health care system need it most.

Utah has long been a great place to live and work. Being a leader on occupational licensing reform sets Utah up to continue to prosper.

Conor Norris

Edward Timmons

Conor Norris is a research analyst, and Edward Timmons is director, of the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation. Timmons is also professor of economics at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Penn.