Representative Harshbarger Introduces Bill to Reform Occupational Licensing: ‘Freedom to Work Act’


Representative Diana Harshbarger (R-TN-01) introduced the “Freedom to Work Act” on Wednesday – a bill to reform occupational licensing.

The Freedom to Work Act would require federal executive agencies to review their authorities, regulations, or policies that directly impose occupational licensing requirements or cause state, local, or tribal governments to adopt occupational licensing requirements. Then, those agencies would have to identify any changes that would either rescind or offer the least restrictive alternative to any occupational licensing requirements.

Harshbarger’s spokespersons shared a statement from the representative with The Tennessee StarHarshbarger submitted that this was one solution to get Americans back to work.

“With return to work slowing back to a crawl under President Biden’s failing leadership, we need to look at new ways to help Americans re-enter the workforce. Many occupational licensing requirements, under the guise of consumer safety, are simply a big government power grab to prevent competition and keep would-be workers out of a particular job market,” said Harshbarger. “I’m committed to eliminating red tape that is keeping Americans out of work, and the Freedom to Work Act does just that.”

The Freedom to Work Act noted in its preamble that occupational licensing grew 20 percent in the past 60 years, from 5 percent of the workforce to 25 percent. It also asserted that studies didn’t support correlation between licensing and improved quality of service. Rather, licensing only served to increase the cost to consumers – an additional $203 billion annually – and cut jobs by 2.85 million.

“Occupations experience slower employment growth in States where they are licensed, compared to States where they are not, proving occupational licensing serves as a barrier to employment,” read the bill preamble.

Ron Shultis, the Director of Policy for Beacon Impact – the advocacy partner of the nonprofit, nonpartisan, independent public policy organization, the Beacon Center of Tennessee – shared their thoughts on the bill with The Star.

“Beacon has long fought for Tennesseans’ right to earn a living by slashing occupational licensing red tape. We’ve made great strides to eliminate needless licensing laws, but more needs to be done,” stated Shultis. “We are grateful for leaders like [Representative] Harshbarger for elevating the profile of this important issue to the national stage with the Freedom to Work Act. Hopefully, Congress will give this the attention it deserves.”

According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the national unemployment rate sits at around 6 percent. As of March, Tennessee’s unemployment rate totaled around 5 percent.

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Corinne Murdock is a reporter at The Tennessee Star and the Star News Network. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to [email protected].






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2 Thoughts to “Representative Harshbarger Introduces Bill to Reform Occupational Licensing: ‘Freedom to Work Act’”

  1. Kevin

    This is a GREAT concept and I applaud the effort, however, it has about as much of a chance of getting signed into law as I have of winning “America’s got Talent”.

    The Dems won’t ever let it pass, nor will the RINO’s when they take back the Congress. It’s too much of a money maker. Plus, we shall see whether the newest Congresswoman from Tennessee will even try to get this kind of legislation passed once the R’s are back in charge!

    In “super majority” Republican Tennessee, they tried to repeal the “privilege tax” on just four occupations, but it failed, mainly because the State would have lost $17 million in revenue! And Randy McNally couldn’t allow that to happen!

    But I’d like to know, exactly where in either the US Constitution or the Tennessee Constitution did We the People give government the right to say who can cut or braid hair, install a toilet, or give advice on financial investments?

  2. Horatio Bunce

    “As of March, Tennessee’s unemployment rate totaled around 5 percent.”

    How many times over the years have we been told this figure was “fully employed” and higher numbers were not reasonably achieved?

    Why is Bill Lee ending unemployment benefits in this environment, especially when his executive orders were responsible for the vast majority of the unemployed? I can find nearly as many shuttered businesses that used to be open a year ago as I see with “now hiring” signs today. Most of those businesses were also told they are non-essential by Lee’s executive orders.