New Hampshire Governor Seeks Radical Occupational Licensing Reform

Courtesy Of Dave Warrender/Huot Career and Technical Center
Licensed nursing assistant (LNA) students at Huot Career and Technical Center in Laconia took socially distanced licensing exams in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu’s new budget proposal includes a call for occupational licensing reform. In his February 14 budget message, Sununu expressed a commitment to “breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry to do business here, increasing free‐market competition, and signaling to the rest of America that New Hampshire is the #1 state in America for Economic Freedom.”

Details of the licensing reforms outlined in Governor Sununu’s Executive Budget summary included the following:

[T]he budget eliminates 692 unnecessary statutory provisions, 14 unnecessary regulatory boards, and 34 license types. Licensing timeframes will be standardized for all professionals to eliminate administrative burden and ensure that everyone in New Hampshire who applies for a license receives it in a timely manner. At the same time, universal recognition of licensed professionals in other states is established making it simple to relocate and join our state’s workforce.

The universal licensing recognition proposal builds on a 2018 New Hampshire law that provides temporary licenses for out‐of‐state licensees while they go through the Granite State’s licensing process. These temporary licenses are valid for 120 days. States that have adopted universal licensing recognition more recently grant practitioners a full license if they were previously licensed in another state with similar criteria and meet certain other requirements. It appears that Sununu plans to move New Hampshire in that direction.

Drew Cline, President of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a New Hampshire think tank welcomed Sununu’s initiative saying: “The governor has recognized that occupational licensing often is only loosely connected to concerns about public health and safety and instead tends to be used to restrict competition. This proposal, if passed, would do quite a bit to promote economic opportunity while making a dent in New Hampshire’s serious labor shortage.”

The state’s unemployment rate is well below the national level, and the Chamber of Commerce recently reported that New Hampshire has only 53 available workers for every 100 open jobs. Licensing and other labor market reforms will be needed to ensure that employers can find qualified workers and customers can find service providers. Sununu is also proposing to create an Office of Regulatory Review, Reduction, and Government Efficiency to identify and remove other unnecessary regulations.

It will now be up to the state legislature to implement Sununu’s deregulatory vision.

This piece was originally published in the CATO Institute.

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