America First is not a slogan. It is a call to action to restore and strengthen the ideals that made America the most powerful economy in the world. After two years of significant economic hardship in the form of decades-high inflation and unprecedented labor shortages, it is time to once again prioritize the interests of workers and small businesses — not bureaucrats or connected insiders — in the policymaking process. America First leadership that gives a voice to those who have become all too accustomed to being pushed aside is desperately needed throughout the entire country, both at the federal and state level. Despite the dystopian policies coming out of Washington, D.C., some shining examples of state leaders seizing the mantle of leadership do exist. In South Dakota and Virginia, Governor Kristi Noem and Governor Glenn Youngkin have shepherded bills on occupational licensing reform in their states that streamline the process for workers to make a living as they see fit.
Occupational licensing refers to the credentialing process that many jobseekers, small businesses, and self-employed individuals must navigate to be allowed to conduct their trade or craft. Though it is natural to associate this process with occupations that involve high stakes and the potential for serious harm resulting from unqualified practitioners, occupational licensing is actually far more pervasive. Occupational licensing requirements — overseen and managed by the states — apply to therapists, cosmetologists, and beyond. The millions of people who seek these credentials all across the country are often critical to their communities — providing important services to their neighbors, creating and filling jobs, and significantly contributing to commerce in their regions. (RELATED: JENNY BETH MARTIN: For The Republic To Survive, Biden’s Student Loan Bailout Must Die)
These individuals often look to expand their practice into other states or build their businesses or address workforce needs in a particular community. Sometimes, they simply move and must build a business in a new area, as is so often the case with our country’s dedicated military spouses. While all of these reasons make practical business sense, bureaucratic hurdles frequently make it unnecessarily difficult to pursue credentialed employment or small business certification.
That is no longer the case in South Dakota and Virginia. In February of this year, their state legislatures passed occupational licensing laws that paved the way for increased workforce opportunities. In South Dakota, Governor Noem has aggressively led the charge to support her labor force, explaining that while her state’s unemployment rate is at historic lows, they still have 23,000 open jobs available. The South Dakota bill empowers licensing officials to integrate faster and more efficient processes to obtain required certifications.
Similarly, Virginia cut through traditional political red tape to implement a concise one-page bill to assist these workers and businesses. The law states that if a valid occupational license has been held in another state for three years, and the worker or business is in good standing in that state, that individual may receive a license to engage in that same trade in the state of Virginia. In just a few sentences, these bills not only provide opportunities for small businesses and workers seeking to bring their skills to new communities but speak volumes to the impact that America First policies can bring to a state. Policymakers can help more workers and businesses by taking an active role in advancing similar policies all across the country. In places like Missouri, South Carolina, and elsewhere, this America First movement to support workers also has a real opportunity to become law.
Occupational licensing reform is just one way that the America First Agenda is laying the foundation for freedom and opportunities for our workers, small businesses, and the future of this country.
Linda McMahon is the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Chair of the America First Policy Institute.
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.
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