ALLOW Act Summary

The Problem

Appeals to public health and safety are often used as a pretext to protect economic incumbents by unjustifiably increasing occupational licensing requirements. Whereas in 1950 only five percent of the workforce nationwide worked in occupations requiring a government license, in 2015 that number had grown to 25 percent—a 500 percent increase. Licensing barriers reduce economic growth and entrepreneurship and disproportionately burden low-wage and young workers, minorities, and immigrants. Yet, most legitimate health and safety concerns can be adequately addressed by less burdensome regulations such as certification, registration, bonding, and insurance requirements.

In the District, for example, time consuming and often expensive licensing requirements are imposed on would be entry-level interior designers, tour guides, cosmetologists, florists, and pest control workers, to name a few—with little or no legitimate public purpose served.  For example, an aspiring interior designer must have six years’ education/experience, pay $925 in fees, and pass an exam to work legally in this field.

On military bases, inconsistent licensing requirements and a lack of reciprocity among states effectively block many military spouses from pursuing their chosen field of work, even as they support their enlisted spouse across multiple geographical postings.  Thirty-five percent of military spouses in the labor force work in professions that require a state issued license or certification, and they are 10 times more likely to have moved across State lines in the last year than their civilian counterparts.

In our National Military Parks and Battlefields, such as Gettysburg, and on the National Mall, government permission is required in order to provide tour guide services that include extemporaneous speech about the battles, events and institutions that shaped our Nation’s history.  Illogically, this requirement does not apply to the sale of prerecorded ‘audio tour’ machines—yet another example of hectoring government regulations benefiting economic incumbents at the expense of aspiring job seekers. 

The Solution

The Alternatives to Licensing that Lower Obstacles to Work (ALLOW) Act reduces the anticompetitive impact of unjustifiable licensing requirements by making targeted changes to licensure policies.  The Act:

Serves as a model for reform in the states by limiting the creation of occupational license requirements in the District only to those circumstances in which it is the least restrictive means of protecting the public health, safety or welfare, and makes it District policy to limit the enforcement of a license requirement only to the sale of those goods and services expressly listed in the statute or regulations defining an occupation’s “scope of practice.”  Promotes less restrictive requirements, such as public and private certification.  Provides for the creation of a dedicated office in the District Attorney General’s Office, or within each relevant District agency, responsible for the active supervision of occupational boards.  Provides for legislative oversight, with a “sunrise review” when considering new proposed licensing requirements to evaluate the possible negative impacts on workers and economic growth, along with possible less restrictive regulations. And provides legislative “sunset review,” which applies the same analysis of net benefits and possible alternatives to existing occupational licensing laws in the District, with the goal of reviewing all such laws and proposing appropriate modifications over a five year period.

Harmonizes occupational entry requirements by providing endorsement on military bases of occupational licenses and public certifications issued in any state in order to promote workforce attachment for military spouses who are disproportionately affected by the patchwork of state licensing laws as they move with their enlisted spouse from post-to-post.  This approach will increase workforce mobility and labor market efficiency. 

Emphasizes certification as an alternative approach to licensure by eliminating the need to obtain prior government approvals to speak about our Nation’s military, political and cultural history while offering tour guide services for a fee within National Military Parks and Battlefields, or the National Mall and Memorial Parks.


ALLOW Act by Senator Mike Lee on Scribd