By J.D. Davidson
The Center Square

Ohio moved a step closer to recognizing business licenses from other states, which could help with an ongoing labor shortage, a Columbus-based policy group believes.

The House and Senate each passed versions of bills that would adopt universal occupational license recognition before the summer recess, a move The Buckeye Institute believes will make the state more attractive to newcomers and allow employers more options to fill open spots.

“By passing Ohio House Bill 203 and Ohio Senate Bill 131 – universal occupational license recognition – both chambers of the General Assembly took an important step forward to help Ohio address critical worker shortages brought on by the pandemic,” said Greg Lawson, research fellow at The Buckeye Institute. “This Buckeye-championed policy will make Ohio a more welcoming state for new residents and ensure new Ohioans can quickly fill vacancies in areas where Ohio is in desperate need of qualified workers.”

House Bill 203 and Senate Bill 131 each would reform occupational licensing and remove regulations, and they would allow people who hold a license in good standing in their state to receive reciprocity in Ohio.

“Enacting license recognition will make it easier for individuals to practice their trade in our communities here in Ohio,” said Rep. Jena Powell, R-Arcanum. “By passing HB203, we recognize that individuals do not lose their skills when they cross state lines, and we send a bold message to the rest of the country that Ohio is open for business.”

The House bill received opposition from construction and building groups, as well as the Ohio Funeral Directors Association, which raised concerns about relaxing the state’s requirements and service provided to customers.

“Ohio’s comprehensive licensing standards stand in stark contrast to eight states, including the border state of Kentucky, which requires a funeral director to only hold a high school degree and serve an apprenticeship to obtain a license,” testified Devin Woodyard, immediate past president of the Ohio Funeral Directors Association. “The states of Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri and Nevada require no postsecondary education in order to become a funeral director. Not only does this statutory workaround allow a person with no post-secondary education to sidestep college, it provides for a shorter timeframe toward licensure.”

Building and construction groups fear the legislation would bring unlicensed workers to the state and take work from Ohio companies.

“House Bill 203 will flood Ohio with unlicensed or inadequately licensed out-of-state contractors to take work from Ohio-based companies, putting Ohio construction workers' lives and livelihoods at risk,” testified Michael Knisley, executive secretary-treasurer of the Ohio State Building & Construction Trades Council.

Senate sponsor Rep. Kristina Roegner, R-Hudson, said the bill would promote economic growth throughout the state and give Ohio more skilled workers.

"This bill recognizes that workers licensed in other states do not lose their skill sets when they move to Ohio," Roegner said. "Arizona and Pennsylvania have already recognized this. It’s time for Ohio to do so as well."