This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Here's a question: Which occupation do you think requires more training in Utah — someone who paints your house, or an emergency medical technician (EMT) who might save your life?

If you said EMT, you'd be wrong.

That's thanks to what are called "occupational licenses," which essentially require government permission slips to start certain jobs or new careers. Many are as backwards as this example sounds.

But our representatives are changing that — and that's great news. Legislation signed into law in March will start to address the harm caused by these licenses. Rep. Mike Schultz's House Bill 313 will ease some of the burdensome licensing requirements for workers just trying to start a career, a big step for the Beehive State.

In Utah, occupational licenses are especially onerous. A report from the Institute for Justice ranked Utah as having the 13th most burdensome license requirements in the country. They cost an average of nearly $300, and require over 400 days of experience and passage of two state exams.

It would be one thing if licensing requirements were only applied when they are necessary to protect public health and safety. In fact, that's how occupational licenses first started. Their original goal was guarding the welfare of consumers.

But over the decades, license requirements expanded to cover far more than public safety concerns. Special interests have often lobbied for their passage to prevent competitors from entering the market, creating fewer consumer choices and higher prices for many services. A 2011 academic study found these laws cost consumers nationwide over $200 billion every year.

The harms to employment are even worse. According to the Institute for Justice, Utah requires occupational licenses for 46 mid- to low-income professions. Many are entry- or mid-level positions that are the launching pad for new careers — or even entire businesses.

For example, that person who wants to paint your house? He or she must pay $549 in fees and spend a staggering 730 days in training — two years — which is time and money many people don't have.

Or someone who wants to become a mason? Among the 28 other states that require a license for this occupation, those seeking a license in Utah pay the fifth highest amount in fees ($477) and must obtain the third most experience (1,460 days).

The harms occupational licenses cause the Hispanic community are especially pronounced. While Latinos make up about 14 percent of the Utah's total population, they comprise about a quarter of the construction industry workers. Removing these barriers would undoubtedly help the unemployment rate of the Hispanic population, which is nearly double the rest of the state's.

These barriers are also proving difficult for Utah employers. Despite Utah's growing Hispanic population—which at over 400,000, now amounts to nearly one in seven residents across the state—many construction companies are having a hard time finding workers to fill open positions.

Reforming—or altogether repealing—many of these occupational licenses will go a long way toward helping Utah employers and employees alike.

That's where the new legislation comes in. Signed into law in March, it eases the licensing and training requirements for some specialty contractors and apprentices in plumbing and electricity. By removing some of the barriers that prevent people from even training for a profession, this bill is a step in the right direction.

HB 313 sailed through the House with strong support, passed quickly through the Senate, and was signed by the governor without delay. Reducing unnecessary occupational licensing requirements is a proven way to create jobs and stimulate economic growth, without compromising public safety.

Evelyn Everton is the Utah state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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