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Opinion: Missouri is becoming a national leader on occupational licensing reforms

Over the last few years, Missouri has cleared the way for more people in the state to find work and has also lowered barriers of those moving into its towns and cities to pursue employment.

This change was a long time coming. Excessively burdensome occupational licensing laws can be extremely detrimental to small business owners, military spouses, and a community and economy in general.

Shoshana Weissmann

A few sharp elected officials in Missouri — those like Rep. Derek Grier and Gov. Mike Parson — took note of this, and just last year successfully enacted legislation implementing universal licensing recognition in the state.

This means people with occupational licenses — including architects, dental hygienists, and psychologists — can now move to Missouri and work in their licensed professions without going through expensive and time-consuming recertification in the state. The legislation also narrowed the ways in which licensing boards can deny licenses based on criminal history to make sure there is a tighter relationship between the crime committed and the job one would perform which can also help reduce recidivism rates.

In light of the pandemic, it is notable that Missouri is working to allow foreign-trained physicians, whose credentials meet licensing board standards, to work in America. Even before the pandemic, America faced a daunting and growing shortage of physicians — and it is only going to get worse. Doctors who immigrate here face an expensive and long licensing process, and immigrant health care professionals are extensively underemployed in America. Legislation like this would be transformational for the health care system and set Missouri ahead of every other state. Another bill sponsored by Sen. Denny Hoskins would expand the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) scope of practice which would allow nurses to give more care while reducing costs. It’s a model that works successfully in many states, and clearly, lawmakers hope will work well in Missouri.

But licensing reforms don’t stop there. Missouri has 21 military bases, and legislation spearheaded by Republicans in the state legislature would also allow military spouses to more easily have their licenses recognized so that they can move to Missouri and work. Too often, military families move to a new state and lose an income because of the licensing process. Another bill, HB 491, is not quite licensing reform, but similar in that it allows people to work from their homes without arbitrary government restrictions. Many localities have laws that prevent home-based businesses even when they have no impact on the neighborhood.

Finally, another bill from Sen. Andrew Koenig would allow people with criminal records to find out from occupational licensing boards whether their record would disqualify them from being able to acquire a license. As people try to get back on their feet, they have to know what’s open to them before investing time and money, if we want them to succeed.

All of this new work follows past attempts to make Missouri a member of medical licensing compacts, reduce licensing requirements for barbers, allow people to work while waiting for their license from another state to be recognized, and more.

Other states should seek to reduce government red tape and bureaucracy in order to make their economies more competitive the way Missouri is trying to.