EDITORIAL: Wolf's effort to trim need for licenses in state should get bipartisan support

York Dispatch

During these divisive times, it’s hard to find legislation that both sides of the red-blue divide can agree on.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf wants to stop mandating professional licenses for 13 types of jobs. FILE PHOTO

Maybe, just maybe, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has found something that Republicans and Democrats can agree on — let’s snip the need for barbers to be licensed by the state.

OK, it’s little more complicated than that.

Wolf wants to stop mandating professional licenses for 13 types of jobs, including barbers, auctioneers, campground membership salespeople and natural hair braiders, among others.

Pennsylvania's Democratic governor said the current regulations are a barrier to employment. He’s right about that.

Plus, it seems downright silly that someone needs a license just to cut or braid hair, run an auction or sell campground memberships.

It’s just unnecessary government bureaucracy at work, not to mention an unneeded expense for folks in private business.

In addition, a report from Wolf’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs said that “occupational licensure can serve as a form of ‘title protection,’ shielding practitioners with a license from competition.”

Wolf proposes looser licensing rules for barbers, other jobs

Finally, Wolf said military spouses should have an easier way to transfer qualifications when they move from other states. He’s suggesting a reciprocity system with other states.

Should get Republican support: That’s why Wolf’s proposal should be strongly endorsed by his Republican opponents. They say they love our military, the competition of free enterprise and cutting red tape. This gives the Republicans the opportunity to check off all of those boxes.

Replacing licensing mandates with less onerous training or registration rules will require legislative action, however, meaning Wolf and his Democratic allies and the Republican-controlled state Legislature will have to play nice to make the proposals become a reality.

Unfortunately, there’s certainly no guarantee that will happen, especially in an election year, when partisan politics almost always take precedence over simple common sense.

Won't be easy: Changing the licensing rules won’t be easy. After all, there are 29 boards in Pennsylvania that regulate 255 types of professional licenses. More than a million state residents currently hold professional licenses.

It’s a massive bureaucracy.

Many of those licenses, such as those in the medical field, are absolutely necessary for ensuring public safety. Many others, such as barbers, are not.

Making the decisions on what to license and what not to license will likely be a source of heated debate.

Another issue that could cause conflict is Wolf’s proposal to repeal an automatic 10-year ban on 13 types of licenses for those convicted of drug felonies and instead let licensing boards consider the criminal record.

Republicans, who like to take a hard stance on drug crime, may fight Wolf on that part of his plan.

In fact, simply out of habit and general disdain, Republicans may fight Wolf on many other facets of his plan.

Chance for bipartisanship: That would be a shame, because we have the rare chance for some true bipartisan action in Harrisburg.

We shouldn’t allow this opportunity to get cut short.

Our barbers are counting on us.