Originally Appeared in the The Advocate

Every person has a dream. It could be to see the Saints win the Super Bowl or for LSU baseball to win another College World Series. More realistically, however, countless Louisianans dream of escaping poverty and finding fulfilling work. Our people should be able to pursue their dreams and work in their desired field, but Louisiana’s occupational licensing regime makes it hard to earn a living.

Daltonio Elaire is a Lafayette native who had a dream of opening a mobile barbershop to bring his years of expertise in the profession directly to the consumer. During the pandemic, he poured hours of work and his life savings into creating his mobile barbershop. Yet after months of operation and compliance with all the permitting he thought necessary, state licensing board officials shut him down and told him mobile shops are not, and will never be, allowed in Louisiana. Current licensing rules give little to no recourse for Daltonio — and many folks like him — to challenge these rulings.

Unfortunately, Daltonio’s story is all too common. Over the last 30 years, Louisiana added more licensure requirements to work in low- and moderate-income professions than any other state. Now, nearly one in four jobs require an occupational license, and that hurts our people. According to a recent study by the Pelican Institute and the Archbridge Institute, Louisiana’s burdensome licensure laws can be directly tied to a decrease in economic mobility, and disproportionately harm individuals in minority communities.

Fortunately, Louisiana’s future can be brighter than its past. This session, legislators have a chance to level the playing field and allow Louisianans to pursue their dreams by supporting several bipartisan reform proposals. The Success for Entrepreneurs Act, House Bill 1062 by state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman, D-New Orleans, would strengthen the legal standard in law and require boards to offer a public health, safety, welfare, or fiduciary rationale for the rules and regulations they put in place. This will allow Louisianans to challenge anti-competitive and arbitrary regulations.

Similarly, Senate Bill 483 by state Sen. Stewart Cathey Jr., R-Monroe, would ensure Louisiana licensure boards fast-track the recognition and licensure of credentialed professionals from other states. This wouldn’t allow outsiders to ignore Louisiana’s health and safety requirements, but it would expedite the licensure process for skilled professionals seeking to build a new life in the Pelican State. As thousands of people move to our region, barriers like occupational licensure are among the important factors that send skilled labor and talented entrepreneurs elsewhere. That’s why these measures have the support of economic development and business leaders from every corner of the state.

And House Bill 639 by state Rep. Thomas Pressly, R-Shreveport, would grant people exiting the justice system a chance to obtain occupational licenses for professions in which their past crimes are not related. This would reduce recidivism while increasing public safety. The goal is to establish a consistent process of consideration for those with criminal histories without removing the discretion of the board. This way, high-risk offenders are kept out of sensitive occupations and prospective applicants are made aware of disqualifying factors before they start the tedious and costly process of obtaining an occupational license. After all, the best way to reduce the recidivism that plagues our justice system is to create pathways to meaningful work for justice-involved citizens.

Occupational licensing reform is about helping real people, our families and friends, follow their dreams and escape poverty. Countless Louisianans give up pursuing their dreams every day because of arbitrary roadblocks and hurdles. It’s time our lawmakers cast a new vision of opportunity and prosperity for everyone. It’s time we write Louisiana’s comeback story and restore every person’s right to earn a living.