Tackling licensing reform, avoiding unintended consequences of regulation, and more: What’s new in Ascend Magazine

How can policymakers ensure that licensing requirements strike the right balance? How can we avoid the unintended consequences of regulation? We look at this and more in Ascend’s latest monthly digest.

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Occupational regulation is essential to help protect the public from harm caused by unqualified practitioners. At the same time, it is important that licensing requirements in regulated occupations strike the right balance in order to prevent unintended consequences. If they aren’t strong enough, the public is at higher risk of bodily or financial harm. But if they are too restrictive, people who want to practice that occupation can face unnecessary burdens to obtaining a license, which can exacerbate existing labor shortages that prevent the public from accessing critical services.

As labor shortages continue across key sectors of the economy, legislators are increasingly grappling with this issue as they look for ways to help people get to work faster in their states, promote a vibrant, healthy economy, and ensure that citizens have access to essential services. More and more states are taking on occupational licensing reform as part of that effort.

But as states approach reform and take a critical look at existing regulations, how can policymakers ensure that they are striking the right balance? And how can we avoid the unintended consequences of regulation? Over the last month, Ascend Magazine has explored these questions in detail with insights from several leading voices in regulation.

Exploring innovative approaches to occupational licensing reform with Utah’s Dept. of Commerce

The State of Utah is taking an innovative and systematic approach to occupational licensing reform with its Office of Professional Licensure Review (OPLR), a recently launched branch within the Department of Commerce that is tasked with reviewing all of Utah’s licensed occupations at least once every 10 years and providing the legislature with objective, data-driven recommendations on changes to licensing requirements.

Paul Leavoy recently sat down with Margaret Busse, executive director of the Dept. of Commerce, and Jeff Shumway, director of OPLR, for a Q&A about the unseen economic forces of professional regulation and occupational licensing reform in Utah. Part 1 touches on the history of occupational licensure and licensing reform in Utah, the creation of OPLR and how it approaches prioritizing occupations for review, and the reasons behind the current shortage of mental health practitioners in Utah and how changing licensing requirements can help address it. In Part 2, they discuss how to overcome barriers to reform, how other states are streamlining licensing requirements, the importance of stakeholder engagement during the reform process, and more.

To hear their full conversation, listen to this recent episode of the Ascend Radio podcast.

Science-based approach needed to combat unintended consequences of regulation, says Harry Cayton

Harry Cayton explored how to combat the unintended consequences of regulation in his latest Voices column. “Regulation is a social and political construct. It is not a science based solely on evidence,” he writes, noting that as much as governments commit themselves to cutting red tape, deregulation is often a lot harder than creating new controls in areas like occupations, manufacturing, and trade. But Cayton argues that reducing the supply of professionals in fields with strong demand can result in unintended consequences like raised prices and an increase of unlicensed and illegal activity. While he recognizes that the expansion of and variation in occupational regulation will no doubt continue across the globe, Cayton emphasizes that research and building a knowledge base for regulation and licensing will be critical to ensure that regulations are informed and evidence-based.

More from Ascend Magazine

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