Gov. Kim Reynolds signing the occupational licensing reform bill into law on Thursday, June 25, 2020.

Among the flurry of lawmaking during the last week of this year’s incredibly unique legislative session, was a bill that removes barriers to entering the workforce and makes Iowa more attractive to workers and businesses. 

House File 2627 changed Iowa’s occupational licensing system by:

  • Implementing universal recognition (recognizing the licensure or experience a person obtained in another state)
  • Bringing criminal justice reforms to the licensing process for those with a conviction history
  • Waiving the licensing fees for Iowans with incomes under 200% of the poverty level 

But merely listing the changes to Iowa’s laws doesn’t accurately paint the picture of what these reforms will do. While promoting the idea that “opportunity lives here” during her Condition of the State address this January, Governor Kim Reynolds noted that a quarter of Iowa’s workforce requires some kind of professional license, the second highest in the nation.  The Governor recognized that, “Our licensing requirements are also the worst for low-income people, meaning that those who need opportunity the most have the hardest time getting a license.” 

Who is someone in need of that opportunity? 

State Senator Waylon Brown, R-Osage, floor manager of the legislation in the Iowa Senate, shared the story of a young, widowed mother of two seeking a fresh start following the loss of her husband.

After moving back home to Iowa to be closer to her extended family, she couldn’t continue in her career because Iowa has more stringent requirements than her former state of residence and wouldn’t recognize her license. At the moment, this young woman is working multiple jobs so she can make enough money to pay for the additional hours of education Iowa requires.

This legislation does not ignore public safety.  

Skilled and experienced workers moving to Iowa are still required to be in good standing within their current state and they also must have a record free of suspensions or other disciplinary action. This legislation simply recognizes that workers don’t lose their abilities when they cross state lines.

A handful of other states have enacted some form of universal recognition, criminal justice reforms, or fee waivers. Iowa is the first state, however, to combine all of those elements in a single licensing reform bill, and the first state to recognize experience in place of licensure.

The leadership Governor Reynolds displayed in advocating for these reforms, as well as a Legislature that voted in a bi-partisan manner to put working Iowans ahead of special interests, delivered game-changing reforms for Iowa and workers looking to re-locate here.

Cutting the red tape tax ensures opportunity.

Excessive occupational licensing laws have served as a hidden red tape tax that hurt Iowa’s working class by making it more difficult and more expensive to earn a living and fill high-demand jobs. As we all work our way through the economic impact of COVID-19, this was an excellent time for Iowa lawmakers to ensure opportunity lives here for everyone.

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