A reform that offers hope for centrists
You wouldn’t know it from reading the headlines, but the coming days could represent a turning point in the partisan gridlock that has paralyzed our country for years — if we are willing to come out of our ideological corners and work together toward common goals. Virginia did just that by passing a law that focuses on a narrow subset of red tape that both Democrats and Republicans loathe.
The “Regulatory Reduction Pilot Program,” expected to be signed into law soon by Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), highlights how meaningful reforms are achievable with cooperation from both major political parties, even in the Trump age.
On the surface, the law is similar to many of the regulatory reform bills being introduced elsewhere. It aims to reduce regulations and other similar requirements by 25 percent over a three-year period. But in this case, the law targets dictates from two state agencies: Virginia’s Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation and Department of Criminal Justice Services.
There is a lot for both parties to like about this legislation. Republicans around the country are zeroing in on regulation that hinders growth and limits economic opportunity. While some occupational licensing regulations can make sense, others create unnecessary hoops for people to jump through before they can earn well-paying jobs to support their families. These laws also protect established professionals and businesses from competition from new upstarts.
Meanwhile, Democrats and others who prioritize fair treatment for vulnerable populations also have something to like. The burdens of licensing often fall disproportionately on people with low incomes, as well as groups like military spouses and immigrants. This was among the conclusions of a 2015 report from former President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors.
The report seems to have lit a fire under the licensing reform effort, but free-market economists like Milton Friedman have railed against these laws since the 1960s. Licensing reform illustrates a sweet spot whereby libertarian economics and progressive concerns come together, and helps explain why the narrowly Republican-controlled legislature in Virginia is working closely with a newly elected Democratic governor.