Michigan passed a series of licensing reforms over the past decade. The state repealed eight license or registration requirements outright. This included auctioneers, community planners, dieticians and nutritionists, immigration clerical assistants, interior designers, ocularists, painters and school solicitors.
The state also reduced regulatory requirements in other areas, such as allowing mobile cosmetology services, increasing the scope of practice of clinical counselors and nurse anesthetists, eliminating the continuing education hours for athletic trainers, allowing barbers to meet their licensing hours through an apprenticeship and recognizing the licenses of dental therapists earned from other states.
In 2018, the Michigan Legislature prevented local municipalities from mandating their own occupational licenses. Specifically, no city, township, village or county or their public authorities in Michigan can require any training, education or fee as a condition of performing work in any specific occupation. If the license was in place before 2018, it could continue, but it is overridden by any licensing requirements from the state.
Bay City requires a license for fortune-tellers. Lansing has one for auctioneers. Grand Rapids mandates people obtain permission from the city and pay $421 before they can snowplow. The city of Detroit required occupational licenses for landscapers, window washers, movers and dozens of other jobs. The city began repealing many of these after the 2018 state law went into effect.
Michigan lawmakers in 2020 revised laws that required people to have “good moral character” to obtain a state license. This provision was commonly used to prevent people with a criminal record from getting licensed. The reforms reined in the use of this requirement in several ways. They limited regulators to including someone’s criminal record in licensing decisions only if it contained multiple civil actions or a felony conviction. The felony must have a “direct and specific relationship” to the job the person would do if licensed and be a “demonstrable risk” to public safety. Denying someone a license based on a past felony conviction now requires regulators to contend that the applicant would be more likely to commit a crime with the license than without it.
This law immediately made it easier for former prisoners to find work. One construction worker was finally able to open up his own business and make a living.
These reforms have limitations, however. In many occupations, especially in the health and government industries, restrictions on people with criminal records are written directly into the individual statutes that apply to this employment. That is, prohibiting people from working is not based on the “good moral character” provision in the licensing laws, so the 2020 reforms did not apply in these cases. The reforms also specifically do not apply to child care and nursing home workers or police officers.
The bill package also requires the state licensing agency to report annually how many people it denied licenses to because of a lack of good moral character.[*]
In the two years since the law went into effect, licensing regulators approved more than 9,500 new licenses and denied zero for lack of good moral character.
Lawmakers in 2021 made it easier for active military members, veterans and their families to find work in Michigan. New laws waive licensing or registration fees and recognize any occupational license earned from another state for military families. More than one-third of military spouses work in a field requiring a state license, and this group is more likely to be unemployed compared to the general population. These reforms make it easier for them to find a job and get working immediately.
[*]These are available here: “Legislative Reports” (Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, 2023), https://perma.cc/2E8L-QN4H.