Guest Opinions

Time will reveal motive behind Lt. Gov. Little’s executive order on licensing

Wayne Hoffman
Wayne Hoffman

Lt. Gov. Brad Little’s executive order that calls for a “holistic” review of the state’s occupational licenses is the most exciting news to come out of the Idaho governor’s office in a long time. But what Little does next will tell us whether he’s serious about making it easier for Idahoans to work or whether the executive order is just a campaign stunt.

Little’s executive order is not as bold as the one signed by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in March. Ducey has required his state’s licensure boards to justify their licensing standards and justify the existence of their standards. The boards must note cases in which Arizona has more onerous requirements than found elsewhere and explain why. Ducey also asked his licensure boards to examine areas in which a criminal record would bar a person from finding work in an industry or profession.

Little’s executive order is more a call for agencies to catalog their licensure requirements. It doesn’t require agencies to self-examine Idaho’s regulations relative to other states, and it does not ask agencies to be mindful of the government’s role in creating a barrier to entry for people hoping to earn a living. But Little’s order is better than nothing, and something that is long overdue.

Kudos to Little for taking the action. However, it should be noted that reducing occupational licensure barriers isn’t exactly Little’s strong suit. In 2003, as a state senator, Little voted to license heating, ventilation and air conditioning installers. He voted in 2005 to require building contractors to register with the state as part of a quasi-licensure scheme. Also that year he voted to license naturopaths, a law that has since been repealed because of the board’s failure to reach agreement on virtually anything needed to conduct business.

Little cast the tiebreaking vote on a bill to license sign language interpreters in 2015 , allowing it to reach Gov. Butch Otter’s desk. Otter, in a rare moment in which he was able to conquer his statist urges, vetoed the bill. A new version of the sign language licensure bill passed the Legislature in the 2017 session. Otter signed it — and simultaneously vetoed a separate bill to loosen licensure requirements for the cosmetology profession.

Little’s critics may note that apart from his legislative history in this area, Little has had eight years as lieutenant governor to engage on this topic, and he hasn’t. Yet, one year from the Republican primary for governor — in which candidates are competing to parade their conservative credentials — Little may be trying to make his mark and perhaps appeal to voters who think Little is just another Otter.

Issuing an executive order is one thing. Executing on the results is another. Little can make a name for himself on this topic if, and only if, he uses the data collected to institute reforms in the 2018 legislative session. That’s going to be a challenge because his executive order gives agencies until July 1, 2018, to respond, which is months after the session ends.

Make no mistake, Little’s executive order is good and meaningful. But it’s what he does next — or what he doesn’t do — that matters. Little will have to do far more to prove he’s interested in limited government than simply issuing an order to catalog licensing requirements.

Wayne Hoffman, president of the Idaho Freedom Foundation, lives in Nampa.