JACKSON • Gov. Tate Reeves signed legislation Thursday that makes it easier for workers with occupational licenses from other states to start a new job in Mississippi.

The new law says Mississippi must recognize licenses obtained in other states, with a few limitations. Proponents of the legislation —authored by Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven — argue it will encourage more workers to move to Mississippi by removing an unnecessary hurdle.

Currie gave the hypothetical example of a hairdresser from outside the state who wants to move to Mississippi, but is told by the Board of Cosmetology that perhaps they don't have enough schooling and need to take another course.

"Most people just won’t move here and this happens far too often," Currie wrote on Facebook earlier this month. "This bill just clears the way for people to move here and be able to go to work without being hassled."

Mississippi is the first state in the South to pass such legislation, according to Empower Mississippi, a conservative policy think tank that lobbied for the measure. House Bill 1263 easily cleared both chambers in recent weeks with bipartisan support.

Arizona was the first to pass a universal recognition of occupational licenses in 2019, Empower said, and since then more than 2,800 new workers have been granted a license to work in that state. About a quarter of all workers in the U.S. need some type of license for their jobs.

Other states with similar universal license recognition laws include Montana, Pennsylvania, Utah, Idaho, Iowa and Missouri.

Empower President Russ Latino previously said the legislation would help make Mississippi "more competitive, providing a welcoming environment for people looking to relocate, and ultimately expanding opportunity for everyone.”

Mississippi has faced a declining population in recent years, and so-called brain drain — young, educated professionals leaving for better opportunities elsewhere — is often cited as a top economic concern among state leaders. Advocates say universal licensing should help turn the trend around.

The legislation includes several limitations on who will get their license recognized after moving to Mississippi and proving their new residence, including:

  • The license from another state must be in good standing, and the scope of practice must be similar between the two states;
  • The person must have held the occupational license in the other state for at least one year;
  • The person cannot have any complaint, allegation or investigation pending related to their licensure in another state;
  • A state licensing board may still, in some cases, require an exam related to state laws and administrative rules in Mississippi that regulate that job.

LUKE RAMSETH is a Jackson-based reporter covering the 2021 session of the Mississippi Legislature for the Daily Journal. Email him at lramseth@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter at @lramseth.

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