One in 4 workers in Illinois must ask the government for permission before they can legally do their jobs.

Tony can’t qualify for his job he has had over 30 years

“The gang initiation happened when I was 12 years old. That was my fist experience with drug and alcohol abuse, and from that day until I was 28 I struggled with addiction.

“In spite of that struggle I was still the president of my grammar school and my high school, and I started my career in the corporate world. I spent more than 30 years working in insurance and professional billing. But in the beginning I was a completely different person. To fuel that addiction I committed a felony and I served a 30-month probation, which I completed in 1990.

“But it still hangs over me. I’ve been sober for 30 years now and my record haunts me to this day. I thought I had paid my debt to society …

“My [most recent] job I was at for three months before they told me there was a problem with my insurance license. I had passed the tests but my license was being held up for some reason. They said as soon as it goes through we want you to come right back to us.

“When I got the letter from the [licensing] board all I could do was cry.

“I had a certificate of good conduct, my record had been sealed, and I had been recommended for pardon and expungement by a former lieutenant governor, an Illinois congressman, an Illinois state representative and a judge. I thought I had proven myself a changed man. The board even recommended I receive the license. But my application was denied by the director.

“Since February 2012 I’ve sent hundreds of job applications and sat for dozens of interviews but I still haven’t been able to find a job in my industry. One interviewer told me I knew more about his company than he did …

“I built a life for myself and my family, but it’s all been taken away.”

Tony
Chicago, Illinois

One in 4 workers in Illinois must ask the government for permission before they can legally do their jobs.

That permission comes in the form of an occupational license, which the state issues to a person seeking to work in certain professions. To obtain the license, a person must first complete requirements set by the state, which could include schooling, training and payment of fees to the government. But given its lackluster jobs climate, Illinois shouldn’t be getting in the way of people seeking work.

The government promises that occupational-licensing laws are in place to keep the public safe. In reality, however, they often serve to keep newcomers out of jobs by making it more difficult and more expensive to enter licensed professions. These laws also often increase the cost of goods and services for consumers without increasing quality and prevent residents from moving across state lines to pursue their professions.

Licensing requirements are especially burdensome in Illinois. For example, according to a report from the nonpartisan Institute for Justice, to become a security alarm installer in Illinois, a person must undergo 1,099 days of training and pay $832 in fees before receiving a license. By contrast, the national average training period for this occupation is 535 days, and the average fees total $213.

Illinois has some of the highest fees in the nation for certain occupations, including $500 to become an athletic trainer, $885 to become a sign language interpreter, and $1,050 to become a gaming supervisor.

It’s time Illinois followed the lead of other states that are addressing this problem. One such state is Arizona, where Gov. Doug Ducey recently proposed Arizona House Bill 2613, which would eliminate licensing requirements for a handful of occupations. Included in the bill are occupations such as athletic trainers, packers, geologists and landscape architects. Workers in these fields are still required to have education and training; however, they no longer need to obtain licenses from the state before practicing their professions.

Illinois residents would benefit from the state’s implementation of similar occupational-licensing changes in three key ways.

  1. Easier entry into the workforce

Eliminating licensing requirements would give lower-income people access to more employment opportunities, as the fees and long training periods required by many licensing rules burden these people the most. Moreover, strict training requirements make it especially hard for working people and people with families to obtain occupational licenses.

  1. Benefits of competition

Easier entry into the workforce would increase competition among service providers, supplying the market with better goods and services at lower cost to the consumer. Because costs and wait times under licensing rules make it harder for people to enter these professions, there are fewer practitioners in licensed occupations, which reduces competitive pressure on existing businesses to provide higher-quality goods and services. A higher level of competition also means that consumers have more options when choosing a service. And lower prices and more consumer choices will benefit lower-income Illinoisans most.

  1. Moving with your skill

Because Illinois does not recognize some licenses that are issued out of state, workers in certain occupations may not be able to practice their trades in Illinois, which could prevent them from moving here. The Land of Lincoln already has a problem with people moving out of the state. In fact, in 2015 Illinois lost a record 105,000 people on net to other states, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Policy leaders should consider every means of attracting new workers and taxpayers to Illinois.

The poor bear the heaviest burdens under occupational-licensing laws, both in the higher prices they must pay as consumers and in diminished job opportunities. Changes like those Arizona is considering would expand Illinoisans’ opportunities to work and earn a living.

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