By Rick Green, The Oklahoman
A task force headed by state Labor Commissioner Melissa Houston will examine occupational licensing in Oklahoma with the idea of cutting through regulations that can be a barrier to potential workers.
Gov. Mary Fallin announced in a news release Wednesday that she is forming the Oklahoma Occupational Licensing Task Force.
“Occupational licensing often can be overly burdensome, which can hinder a person from earning a living and providing for their family,” Fallin said. “These unnecessary or outdated barriers make it harder for many Oklahomans, particularly those who may not have completed a formal education as well as some minorities.”
Fallin, who is on a Middle East tour, did not give specifics on regulations that she thinks may be overly burdensome.
Her news release noted that creation of the task force was applauded by John Tidwell, Oklahoma state director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation. The foundation was founded by wealthy political activist David Koch to advocate for limited government spending and regulation.
“While we need to be judicious in identifying potential licensing issues for reform, we also need to consider how removing barriers for Oklahoma workers could fundamentally strengthen our state’s economy through increased opportunity for tens of thousands of Oklahomans,” Tidwell said. “We hope that the recommendations of this task force will be seen as a catalyst for an improved Oklahoma economy and a fresh opportunity for government to remove barriers for entrepreneurs without further stifling their ability to live the American dream.”
Houston said public safety will be kept in the forefront of the task force’s work.
“It is important that the state licensing framework allow the free market to thrive without burdensome regulations, while not placing barriers on those working to escape poverty,” she said. “This will be accomplished while keeping the safety and health of the public a priority.”
She said the task force work is necessary to determine the scope of existing regulation and determine which of the rules are necessary for protecting public health and safety. The group’s findings will be forwarded to policy makers.
The task force is to:
•Identify all of the licenses required in Oklahoma.
•Identify all state agencies, boards and commissions involved with the administration of licenses.
•Determine how each license is administered, including a review of information technology platforms that are or could be utilized and the fee structure for obtaining licenses.
•Review the necessity and appropriateness of training levels and other requirements required to obtain licenses.
•Evaluate whether the public health and safety goals and concerns addressed by license requirements outweigh the barriers to entry they place on Oklahoma workers.
The task force was given a deadline of Dec. 31, 2017, to complete its work.
Houston will appoint members of the task force, which will consist of two state senators; two members of the state House of Representatives; Attorney General Scott Pruitt or his designee; Fred Morgan, president and chief executive officer of the Oklahoma State Chamber or his designee; one member of the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force; two members of organizations focused on workforce and economic development; and a member of an organization focused on poverty reduction.