New Hampshire Governor Sununu Announces Comprehensive Occupational Licensing Reform

For years, New Hampshire has lured new residents with promises of low taxes and a generally libertarian policy. Soon, a significant migration of immigrants to the state will be spared the headache: getting permission from the government to do the same job you did elsewhere.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, a Republican, launched a bold occupational licensing reform effort during his annual term. Budget address On Tuesday, he pledged to sign legislation that broadly recognizes occupational licenses issued by other states.

“If you have a similar enough license and are in good standing in another state, there’s no reason you shouldn’t have a license in New Hampshire on day one,” Sununu said. “We are committed to breaking down regulatory barriers, lowering the cost of entry to do business here, increasing free-market competition.”

Additionally, Sununu has called for complete abolition of 34 licenses currently issued by various boards as well as abolition of 14 state regulatory boards. He also notes that many licensing schemes make little logical sense – and usually have more to do with political power than consumer safety.

“The state doesn’t license the contractor who frames your house, but for some reason we license the person who plants a rose in your front yard,” Sununu said. “Not anymore.”

Budget addresses, like the president’s State of the Union address, are more about outlining broad policy goals than getting into the nitty-gritty of legislation. Brandon Pratt, director of communications for Sununu, said because The exact details of that licensing reform will be contained in HB 2, which will be released in the coming weeks.

If they follow through on what Sununu promised in his budget speech, New Hampshire can claim to have one of the least restrictive licensing systems in the country. Nineteen states have enacted some form of universal licensing recognition, although the specifics vary to some extent. But the trend is clearly toward wider acceptance. This year, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo (both Republicans) signed major licensing reforms that included easing the rules for out-of-state licensees to qualify for licenses in their states.

“Occupational licensing laws are exacerbating New Hampshire’s dire shortage of available workers,” said Megan Forbes, director of law at the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged unfair licensing laws and advocates for reform. “It is good that Gov. Sununu called for other states to recognize licensure but, more importantly, he will lead the state in eliminating unnecessary occupational licenses and reducing the licensing burden.”

That represents a potentially huge change for the state, which currently ranks in the bottom half of all states for licensing burden, according to a recent IJ report.

Sununu’s proposal will face some opposition in the legislature–anti-competition rules always have political support from constituencies that benefit from protectionism–and it is too early to judge the outcome. Still, he deserves credit for his goal of increasing the number of New Hampshire residents who can “live free” without getting permission slips from the state.