Lt. governor unveils plan to make Georgia professional licenses easier to secure

The Georgia Nursing Board sets the standards for nurses who wish to work in the field as part of an extensive licensing and certification process. The Georgia Justice Project is collaborating with legislators to propose a measure that would reduce some of the criminal barriers to dozens of professions that require licensing. Don Murray/Getty Images

Several influential business organizations on Tuesday lined up their support for a top legislative priority of Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones in 2024 intended to reduce barriers for small business owners and workers who require professional licenses to work in several dozen types of jobs in Georgia.

Jones on Tuesday unveiled his so-called Red Tape Rollback Initiative that he says, with the support of the business community and the GOP Senate Caucus, will lead to the passage of legislation next year that will streamline the licensing process for jobs such as general contracting to truck drivers and give lawmakers more control over state and local business regulations.

Jones’ small business plan has the support from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Food Truck Association of Georgia and the National Federation of Independent Business, a conservative-leaning small business association.

Under Jones’ legislative plan to loosen regulatory constraints, the threshold for what is considered a small business in Georgia would expand from 100 to 300 employees, increasing the opportunity for hundreds of more businesses to receive incentives like tax relief and loan guarantees while also relaxing reporting requirements.

During next year’s session, the Butts County Republican said he also wants to push the General Assembly to request an economic analysis of how proposed legislation and government regulations affect small businesses.

Jones said his goal is build upon Georgia’s strong business reputation by protecting small business owners from excessive rules and paperwork typically required at the state and local levels.

Republican Lt. Gov. Burt Jones unveiled on Tuesday his Red Tape Rollback Initiative that aims to reduce bureucratic barriers to small businesses and professional licensing. Stanley Dunlap/Georgia Recorder

“We are looking at ways to help businesses reduce burdens of regulations and ways to remove as much red tape as possible during the legislative process,” Jones said during Tuesday’s Capitol press conference.

One of the key measures that the Senate Majority Caucus will try to get across the finish line in 2024 is Senate Bill 157, which eliminates barriers to employment, particularly for those with criminal backgrounds seeking jobs such as cosmetology, barbering, engineering, librarians and contractors in Georgia that require professional licenses.

The measure, sponsored by McDonough Republican Sen. Brian Strickland, passed the Senate chamber unanimously in 2023 before stalling in the House.

An occupational board grants licenses to hundreds of thousands of Georgians who meet standards based on education and prior experience, passing certification exams, and passing background checks. Georgia’s licensing boards are overseen by the Georgia Secretary of State, which has also created a commission aimed at simplifying the process this year.

The Georgia Justice Project has said it’s a too common occurrence for a licensing applicant to be disqualified due to a conviction unrelated to the field in which they are seeking work.

Overall, the more than 40 professions that require occupational licenses represent one of out seven jobs in Georgia.

Perry Republican Sen. Larry Walker III, chairman of the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee, said that Georgia is experiencing a significant workforce shortage in nursing and other health care professions in part because of the bureaucracy of licensing boards.

Among the options his Senate committee is considering are reducing costs and the length of time it takes to obtain a license and adopting universal standards that make it easier to transfer licenses from another state.

“The government has to have a compelling reason for professional licenses – public safety and consumer protection advocacy,” Walker said.

A number of other states, including Arkansas, Maryland, Massachusetts and Tennessee, have passed laws supporting what the National Employment Law Project refers to as “fair chance licensing,” which reforms laws that impose unnecessary obstacles in fast-growing careers such as health care, education and transportation.

A provision of Jones’ legislation would allow the General Assembly to review and oversee proposed state regulations and eliminate duplicative or defunct regulatory bodies.

“The ideas outlined today by Lt. Gov. Jones should make it easier for people to own and operate a small business in Georgia,” NFIB State Director Hunter Loggins said.


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