May 18, 2020

Everyone knows this is a tough time for small businesses. But in state capitals around the nation, a wave of help is on the way, and IJ’s legislative reform team is the force creating it.

The wave can already be seen from Florida’s sandy beaches, where IJ was instrumental in passing one of the largest occupational licensing reform bills anywhere, ever. Thanks to a yearslong effort by IJ and our allies, the Sunshine State will no longer require licenses for many workers, including interior designers, hair braiders, nail technicians, hair wrappers, makeup artists, and boxing timekeepers. The bill relaxed requirements for many others as well, including barbers, landscape architects, contractors, diet coaches, and geologists. Even food trucks got in on the fun, with the Legislature putting an end to food truck bans statewide.

IJ has also increased food freedom. In the past few months alone, IJ persuaded legislatures to make it easier to sell homemade shelf-stable food in Maryland, Washington state, and Wyoming. Not to be outdone by its state counterparts, the D.C. Council passed IJ’s bill allowing direct-to-consumer food sales in our nation’s capital.

Idaho and Utah, meanwhile, tackled collateral consequences for occupational licensing, basing reforms on IJ model legislation and testimony. Both states repealed vague “moral character” requirements that unfairly blocked many ex-offenders from becoming licensed.

And we’re just getting warmed up. When the COVID-19 pandemic led many state legislatures to temporarily postpone their sessions, IJ had 60 bills pending. Over three-quarters were economic liberty bills. Some of those bills will be passed once the legislative sessions resume. Others will need to wait until 2021. All will have a real-world impact.

Here’s an example: After the Mississippi Legislature passed IJ’s hair-braiding reform bill, over 2,600 braiders registered to practice. That job growth resulted from reforming just one license. Most of IJ’s bills, including the one that passed in Florida, are exponentially larger.

Things are tough out there right now, but IJ is working hard to make it easier for America’s small-business owners to ride a nationwide wave of reform and opportunity back into business. Surf’s up.

Justin Pearson is managing attorney of IJ’s Florida office.

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