RICHES: People Move — And Their License To Work Should Move With Them

Victor Riches Goldwater Institute
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Maricopa County, Arizona, is exploding in population. Home to Phoenix, the county added more than 81,000 residents last year — the largest population increase of any county in the United States. For those new residents, and the many others who are sure to follow, they’ll find that they have arrived in a land of opportunity, thanks to a series of groundbreaking reforms to protect their right to earn a living. It’s an example for the nation—and a roadmap for other states to follow.

In April, Arizona became the first state in the nation to recognize occupational licenses from other states. It’s a commonsense yet groundbreaking change to a law that has for too long held workers back. In every other state, a worker who holds a license in one state and then moves to another is forced to go through more study and training in order to do their same job in their new home. That’s costly, time-consuming, and irrational.

As Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey pointed out while signing the bill into law, just because someone moves to a new state doesn’t mean that their training, knowledge, and skills are left behind. Now, any new resident who holds a license to work in their field will be able to continue doing so in Arizona without interruption.

But that’s not all. Arizona recently eliminated another illogical regulation that kept citizens from earning a living. Just days after the universal recognition law was adopted, the state became just the second in the country — after Virginia — to free blow-dry salon workers from the onerous requirement to get a license to do their job. Now, instead of requiring stylists to spend thousands of hours and thousands of dollars to earn a license that has nothing to do with protecting the public’s health and safety, they can get to work and earn a living without needing a government permission slip.

These initiatives come two years after the passage of a truly game-changing reform. In another first, Arizona was the first state in the country to pass legislation safeguarding workers’ ability to work in the field of their choice. Known as the Right to Earn a Living Act, the law puts the onus on government to show that any regulation limiting participation in a job or profession is necessary to protect public health or safety.

These legislative milestones are proof of the immense good that comes from the development of legislative models—consider the roadmaps to reform — that help real people. In 2016, the Goldwater Institute developed the legislation that became Arizona’s Right to Earn a Living Act. As we explained then, the goal was to put an end to the unneeded, overly bureaucratic restraints that rob people of economic opportunity; such restrictions “often inflict their greatest burdens on people with little wealth or political clout, thereby cutting off the bottom rungs of the economic ladder.”

By contrast, passing legislation such as the Right to Earn a Living Act would “ensure that economic opportunity is not merely a promise but a reality.”

Since then, Arizona has worked to make good on that promise of economic opportunity, and hundreds of thousands of people have moved to the Grand Canyon State for a better life and more opportunities. This past month marked more milestones on that journey, and it also sets an example of success for other states to follow. In fact, a version of Right to Earn a Living already passed in Tennessee, and several other states are considering the measure in their legislatures this year.

Today, Arizona is leading the nation in making needed reforms that expand opportunity for workers across the economic spectrum. More and more states will now follow this roadmap to opportunity by passing Right to Earn a Living and other model legislation — and our country’s entire workforce will be much better off because of it.

Victor Riches is the president and CEO of the Goldwater Institute, an Arizona-based nonprofit dedicated to limited government

 The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.