AUSTIN, Texas — On Oct. 8, Gov. Greg Abbott signed a letter to the heads of state agencies, directing their agencies to trim licensing regulations, reduce fees and requirements for certain professions, and remove licensing barriers for individuals with criminal records, where appropriate.
Abbot ordered this overhaul with the intention of providing Texans “the opportunity to earn a living free from unnecessary state intrusion.” The deadline for agencies to notify his office with the steps they plan on taking was Dec. 1.
“Reforming Texas’s occupational-licensing rules must be a priority for all state leaders,” Abbott wrote. “Sensible licensing rules, when necessary, can protect the public from legitimate harm, but overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity. Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed — or former inmates who have paid their debt to society — from building a better life.”
Occupational licensing fees result in tens of millions of dollars in annual state revenue. Abbott ordered agencies to decrease the fees associated with license applications to 75% or less compared to the national average for the same occupations.
In addition to cost, many licensing programs call for steep qualifications that many conservatives argue are unreasonable barriers for potential practitioners.
In 2015, the Texas Supreme Court struck down the requirement that eyebrow threaders must complete 750 hours of training to obtain a license. “This case is fundamentally about the American Dream and the unalienable human right to pursue happiness without curtsying to government on bended knee,” wrote then-Justice Don Willett. “It is about whether government can connive with rent-seeking factions to ration liberty unrestrained.”
The Legislature and the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation also routinely work to deregulate licensing requirements.
The call to remove licensing barriers for certain individuals with criminal records complements a bill passed earlier this year that limits authorities from considering the arrests of license applicants that did not result in convictions. Abbott also called for agencies to publish a specific list of offenses that would disqualify a candidate for an occupational license.
We applaud this directive to expand economic opportunities for Texans, and we will follow its developments.