In many ways, the Covid-19 pandemic has led to more government regulations. But in other ways, it has eased some longtime regulations. Notably, several states have waived or sped up licensing requirements for certain jobs, especially those needed in the Covid-19 fight like healthcare workers and first responders. In so doing, they have exposed the decades-long stranglehold of red tape that surrounds most professional industries in states across the country.
The legal think tank Institute for Justice (IJ) has taken note of these recent changes and is calling on states to continue reforming their often outdated, overbearing and unnecessary business regulations and licensing laws. "Crisis has a way of cutting through the B.S.," says Paul Sherman, an attorney with the IJ. "And I think what we are seeing now is that a lot of this red tape wasn't necessary in the first place."
Sherman explains that these regulatory and licensing laws have been growing for decades. "Fifty years ago, only five percent of Americans needed a license to work in their chosen occupation...today that number is 25 percent and it's growing," he tells KTRH. "This is a serious national problem."
In many states, these licensing requirements go far beyond doctors, lawyers and first responders. "There are more than 100 occupations for low and middle income Americans that are licensed," says Sherman. "And it covers everything from florists, to interior designers, to casket sellers."
Sherman and the IJ are pushing for states to reconsider and reform licensing requirements after this pandemic is over. "It's a shame that people only seem to take these issues seriously when there's a crisis," he says. "These (reform) ideas were good ideas before the pandemic, and they're going to be good ideas after the pandemic."