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Arizona Becomes the First to Recognize Out-of-State Job Licenses

Gov. Doug Ducey signed a bill that makes it easier for people to move there by letting them automatically transfer their occupational licenses from other states.

EMT Arizona
Under the proposed legislation, people who move to Arizona who are already licensed in their field – including emergency medical technicians and dozens of other occupations – would automatically have their license recognized by the state.
(AP/Julie Bennett)
Last Updated April 11 at 9:20 a.m.

It's going to get easier -- a lot easier -- for new Arizona residents to start working after they arrive there.

Ducey, a second-term Republican who served as the CEO of Cold Stone Creamery before entering politics, signed a measure on Wednesday that lets new Arizona residents get occupational licenses when they move to the state, as long as they were licensed in the state they came from.

The governor says the measure will encourage more people to move to Arizona and build its economy, even if it comes at the expense of other states.

“We’re Chicago’s favorite suburb, and, in my second State of the State [address], I was able to thank [then-California Gov.] Jerry Brown for being my partner [in] the economic success we’re having in Arizona,” he says. “Arizona and California have a lot in common: We’re both full of Californians. Those Californians didn’t lose their skills when they crossed the state border into Arizona.”

Arizona had the fourth-fastest growing population last year, according to Census data.

But Arizona has not traditionally made it easy for newcomers to set up shop, according to the Institute for Justice, a conservative public-interest law firm. Arizona requires licenses for 68 of the 102 low-income occupations that the institute reviewed, with average fees of $612. It takes applicants in those occupations an average of two years to get their licenses, the institute reported.

Those barriers made Arizona’s occupational licensing requirements the fourth-most “burdensome” in the country, behind Hawaii, Nevada and Colorado, the Institute for Justice concluded.

Ducey attributes the strict licensing requirements to “bullies” on state boards and commissions that draft the regulations.

“We have licensing for yoga instructors. I think that’s insane,” he says. Citrus fruit and vegetable packers also need a license in Arizona, but nowhere else. Ducey also questions the need for more common occupational licenses, such as for hair stylists. “How many people go back for a bad haircut three times?” he asks.

A rollback of licensing requirements is in line with other Ducey efforts to reduce regulations on businesses. For five years, he has issued moratoriums on new rulemaking by state agencies. He says his administration has rolled back 1,098 regulations and saved businesses more than $79 million.

“Politicians don’t create jobs,” he says. “Risk takers and entrepreneurs are the ones that create jobs. What elected leaders can create is an environment in which to do business. When this occupational licensing recognition passes in Arizona, we will have the best environment in the nation in which to live, work and do business.”

The new law is arguably the most sweeping rollback in the country. No other state has adopted a similar proposal.

Democrats largely opposed the measure when it came before the House, where it passed on a 36-24 vote.

“We don’t really know what the standards are in these other states,” Rep. Pamela Powers Hannley, a Tucson Democrat, told Reason TV, which is produced by the libertarian Reason Foundation. “Why should we dumb down our standards? I see this as sort of deregulation for the sake of deregulation.”

Under the law, the state will recognize out-of-state licensures for new Arizonans who have been licensed in their previous state for more than a year and who didn’t have a criminal conviction or disciplinary action related to their job. 

Ducey says the legislation will be especially useful in helping the state welcome the spouses of people who are relocating to Arizona.

“When I talk to business owners, they tell me [we should do] whatever we can do to make it easier on them to hire people, especially relocating spouses with a trailing spouse, to find work,” he says.

Businesses need workers, he says, at a time when unemployment is low and labor participation is already high.

“You see a lot of spouses who are moving and then choose not to reenter the workforce because of the burdens or obstacles that are in front of them,” he says. “In Arizona, we’re removing those obstacles.”

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