By Waylon Brown
The legislative session has adjourned for the year, with June 14 being the final day of the 88th General Assembly. Before we paused the session in March, the Senate passed legislation to lower barriers to some professions, and bring unemployed people back into our workforce and encourage them to build careers for themselves. We worked to expand the governor’s Empower Rural Iowa and Future Ready Iowa initiatives, and passed bills to improve access to and availability of affordable health care in our state, especially in rural areas. We funded an increase of almost $100 million in new funding for K-12 schools, including transportation equity and per pupil equity.
With the Fourth of July coming up, I thought it would be a good time to talk about one issue I have been working hard on for the last several months. On this holiday, we celebrate the independence and freedom many have lost their lives protecting. One of the great things about our country is, it is a place where everyone can build their American dream and build the life they want. However, sometimes government hampers this growth and opportunity in our state.
Iowa is one of the most heavily licensed states in the country. Nearly one out of every three workers in Iowa is required to maintain a license to work in their profession, while the national average is one out of every four workers. Licensing in many areas of the economy has a proper role. It ensures consumers can depend on reliable and professional service and it protects them from scammers. However, excessive licensing is a significant burden for low income Iowans trying to work their way out of poverty. It creates hurdles for job creators in their effort to expand their business and meet the demands of their customers.
The licensing reform bill I have been working on, HF 2627, starts to ease those burdens by waiving first-time licensing application fees for low income individuals. For many licenses, it credits work performed in other states without licensure to meet Iowa’s license requirements, establishes a universal licensing path to recognize licenses from other states, and improves the licensing process for felons who have completed their sentence. A uniform conviction standard, focused on offenses directly related to professions, will help some felons earn a living and reduce their likelihood of recidivism.
I was proud to manage this bill on the Senate floor, see it passed and sent down to the governor’s office. Governor Reynolds signed it into law last week. This bill will not only help address the worker shortage we have in our state, but also help many people who are trying to improve their lives and build the life they want.