Legislation providing Arkansans with the means to to fight back against over-regulation narrowly failed in the House Public Health, Welfare and Safety committee Thursday.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Richard Womack, would allow Arkansans to contest over-burdensome government regulations that harmed their ability to work.
The legislation states that a private individual has the right to engage in a lawful occupation without being required to comply with an occupational regulation that imposes a substantial burden on the individual, is not substantially related to the state’s important interest in protecting against present and recognizable harm to public health or safety, and is either unreasonable or more restrictive than is necessary to further the state’s important interest in protecting against present and recognizable harm to the public health or safety.
The bill was opposed by several representatives from various trade organizations, who expressed concerns that the legislation would open up their respective marketplaces to shoddy work done by uncertified workers.
However, the legislation wouldn’t repeal any current law regarding occupational certifications or regulation. It merely would give an individual a legal avenue to undo egregious regulations that keep new entrants out of the marketplace rather than protecting the public’s health and safety.
Womack said in his testimony before the committee:
There’s things in every industry that are probably a little egregious and therefore reasons other than public health and safety. This provides an avenue for people to start picking those rules and regulations off one-by-one slowly and methodically. I think you’ll start with the most egregious and never upset business. Passage of this bill won’t drastically alter the way anybody does anything, but it hopefully provides an avenue to start peeling back on egregious regulations.
This bill no doubt embraces free market and limited government principles. This is to the general public’s benefit. When you allow people to embrace their liberty and do the most they can do with their day and be productive at every opportunity that doesn’t harm the public health and safety…it’s a no-brainer.
The measure failed by a margin of 10 to 6, with four members not voting. Eleven votes were needed to pass the bill out of committee. As of late Thursday afternoon, there’s no roll call on the vote available online. Womack told us he wasn’t sure yet if he’d try to put the bill before the committee again.
These kinds of regulations are ripe for reform, considering Arkansas has the second most burdensome occupational licensing laws in the nation. Here’s hoping this legislation gets another shot this session.