You might say Doug Ducey, Arizona’s ice cream salesman-turned-governor, is into scoops. No longer serving up the tasty kind at the chain he once led as CEO, Cold Stone Creamery, he now scoops other governors as an early adopter of innovative policies.
Earlier this spring he signed the nation’s first law in which a state recognizes occupational licenses granted in other states. For Arizona, which is experiencing the fourth-fastest rate of population growth in the nation, it’s a matter of making sure all the newcomers put their skills to use quickly.
“Arizona and California have a lot in common: We’re both full of Californians,” the second-term governor has quipped. “Those Californians didn’t lose their skills when they crossed the state border into Arizona.”
Listening to Ducey expound on the policy at the Heritage Foundation’s annual Resource Bank conference in this Phoenix suburb, I found myself wondering why our own fast-growing state shouldn’t follow suit.
The Census Bureau estimates Georgia added 106,420 new residents in 2018, seventh-best in the nation and close behind Arizona’s 122,770. Once again, Georgia is on pace to add a million new residents in just 10 years; the 2010s would be our fourth straight decade with such growth.
It’s not enough to say our existing companies, or those that will be recruited here, will create enough jobs for everyone. Nor should we count on training all the newcomers. Many new Georgians came trailing spouses who’d found work or been transferred. Like the erstwhile Californians in Arizona, they may already have the training they need to find a job or, better yet, start their own business. They just lack the credential.
Unfortunately, Georgia makes it much harder to obtain one than many other states. In its most recent ranking of states’ occupational licensing regimes in November 2017, the Institute for Justice found Georgia had the 14th-most burdensome licensing laws – “requiring, on average, $185 in fees, 464 days of education and experience, and about two exams.” Our only saving grace is we require licenses for a relatively small number of jobs: only 41 of 102 commonly licensed low-income occupations. (The median nationally is 59.)
Consider IJ’s calculation that it could take a Georgian nearly a year to become a barber, almost eight months to become a makeup artist, or some four months to become a manicurist. No one wants to get a bad haircut, but has anyone ever heard of a crisis of poorly trained barbers in Ohio, New Jersey or any of the other states that have lost residents — including, perhaps, barbers — to Georgia?
Just last month in Savannah, a federal judge held that city’s licensing requirement for paid tour guides violated the workers’ constitutional right to talk for a living. Savannah had required aspiring guides to pass a lengthy exam on local history, even if they simply wanted to tell ghost stories to paying customers. (The city repealed the law in 2015, but plaintiffs represented by IJ continued to pursue the case to establish a constitutional ruling.) Similar rulings have been issued in Charleston, S.C., and Washington, D.C.
Those who already have their licenses are the biggest proponents of keeping the requirements in place, the better to limit their competition. But again, these licenses disproportionately affect low-income jobs — meaning they tend to harm most those trying to start their careers and/or rise out of poverty. The first rungs on the career ladder should be the easiest to grasp.
There is reason to hope here. Gov. Brian Kemp’s Georgians First Commission has identified occupational licensing as one of the areas it will tackle in its effort to make Georgia the top state for small business. Commissioners are tasked with proposing policies by the summer of 2020.
Scooping up Arizona’s sweet deal for newcomers would be a great place to start.