The Newnan Times-Herald

Opinion

The government just admitted that it’s part of the problem


  • By The Newnan Times-Herald
  • |
  • Jun. 01, 2020 - 9:36 AM

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The government just admitted that it’s part of the problem

Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.

In a country that’s been debating what employees are essential, Americans are increasingly finding that many government operations are nonessential.

Indeed, President Trump and governors from across the nation have been using their emergency powers to suspend various rules and regulations to keep the economy afloat and ensure that more Americans have access to healthcare.

During a recent executive order signing ceremony, President Trump even said that he is “instructing federal agencies to use any and all authority to waive, suspend and eliminate unnecessary regulations that impede economic recovery.”

However, the fact that many government operations need to be suspended to permit an economic resurgence is a tacit admission from the government that it often inhibits progress of various forms. As such, maybe more regulations should be shelved permanently, including many in Georgia.

In the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp wisely issued executive orders to cut red tape to allow more medical professionals to practice in Georgia.

He permitted the temporary licensure of graduate nurses who haven’t passed their licensing exam yet; allowed physicians whose license to practice had lapsed in the past five years to practice medicine; signed an order that provided telemedicine licenses to out-of-state doctors; and created a path for out-of-state pharmacists to obtain temporary licenses to practice in Georgia.

Kemp’s executive actions were smart steps, but they also expose the ridiculous nature of many government regulations, including professional licensure.

If out-of-state telemedicine practitioners, recently graduated nurses, and retired physicians without a license or any continuing education over the past five years can practice their trade under the emergency rules, then why can’t this permissive philosophy be applied to other licensed professions on a more permanent basis? After all, Governor Kemp’s actions seem to demonstrate that current licensing regimes are too restrictive.

Of course, many will retort that desperate times, like a pandemic, call for desperate measures. Sure, I guess, but if it’s safe to reduce such medical licensure barriers during a public health emergency, then it should be more than fine during times of normalcy. My point is not that medical care – and all other professions – should be wholly unregulated, but rather, they should be regulated more intelligently and in less burdensome ways. This will lead to better health outcomes and remove barriers to employment – both of which will be vital during the looming economic recovery.

As it stands, in order to receive a professional license in Georgia, workers often must complete time-consuming and costly schooling, pass government-sanctioned exams, and pay the state for permission to work.

Even when workers meet these standards, most of these licenses do not cross state lines, which borders on the ridiculous. Take medical licensing requirements for instance. They often vary from state to state, but physiology doesn’t change depending on whether you are in Georgia or some other state.

I am no doctor, but I feel confident that when I cross state lines, my heart doesn’t grow another valve and antibiotics don’t begin working differently. In the same way, the basic work of other licensed vocations, like cosmetologists, librarians, auctioneers, etc., doesn’t change vastly depending on your location.

Most would expect better outcomes from Georgia’s burdensome system. However, more restrictions don’t lead to better quality products or services – just fewer jobs and higher consumer costs. Instead of perpetuating licensing regimes that seem to reduce access to healthcare and limit employment opportunities, the Legislature ought to make many of Governor Kemp’s temporary reforms permanent and expand them.

Since Governor Kemp’s actions have shown that it was deemed safe to temporarily reform licensing rules for medical professionals, then it would certainly be safe to extend such reforms to many other licensed professions on a lasting basis.

As such, Georgia lawmakers should consider creating a system that provides more temporary licenses for recent graduates. That way, they can get jobs instead of being unemployed while they wait to take their licensing exams.

What’s more, Georgia ought to more liberally provide temporary licenses to those who hold out-of-state licenses and/or simply automatically recognize all out-of-state licenses. Doing so will help people more easily get to work. Many other states have already approved similar measures, including Arizona’s universal licensing recognition model.

Given that Georgia is seriously starting to lag behind other states on licensure reform, the Peach State needs to follow suit.

It's strange the kinds of lessons that crises provide, but there are many. As we examine the coronavirus’ fallout and the related emergency orders, people are realizing that many government operations are far too onerous and often impediments to a better way of life. The same can be said of professional licensing regimes.

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Marc Hyden is the Director of State Government Affairs at the R Street Institute, and he is a long-time Georgia resident. You can follow him on Twitter at @marc_hyden.