Industry incumbents are biggest proponents of occupational licensing

By Aaron Rice
August 21, 2019

Calls for expanding occupational licensure usually do not come from concerned citizens, but from industry insiders more interested in limiting the number of people who can work in their occupation. 

In 2018, the Mississippi legislature, with little discussion and few dissenting votes, passed a bill to make it more difficult to become a real estate broker. The proposed law sought to increase the time it would take to become a broker, going from the current one year to three years. 

Fortunately, Gov. Phil Bryant vetoed the legislation and it didn’t come back this past year. 

Who were the individuals supporting such legislation? It wasn’t a group of citizens negatively impacted by brokers who had just one year of experience. No, it was, naturally, the Realtors Association. And I am sure they would say they are doing it to protect you and me.  

More recently, the Mississippi Justice Institute filed a lawsuit against the Board of Cosmetology over requirements that eyebrow threaders receive 600 hours of instruction that don’t have anything to do with the practice of threading. 

When WLBT talked with a threader who completed the 600 hours of instruction, her response was that it’s not fair because she had to complete the classes for a license. Relevant or not. 

That’s certainly an understandable position. But the goal shouldn’t be to make the entrance harder for new entrants, but easier for everyone. 

That’s the case whether we are talking about the 66 low-to-middle income occupational licenses in the state or the 117,000 or so regulations in the state’s administrative code. 

A smart policy would start with only choosing licensure when there is empirical proof that it is necessary and there is not a less restrictive approach

As for the current licensing schemes, the legislature should begin by repealing unnecessary licenses. And occupational boards should not be in charge of deciding whether a license is necessary. 

Every year, bills to extend the repealer of various occupational boards come before the legislature. They always pass. Usually with no discussion and few dissenting votes. Instead of simply relying on what that board wants, the legislature should use that time to study if a license truly relates to health and safety. 

A great place to review each license would be the Occupational Licensure Review Board, which only has authority over new licenses or regulations. Empower the board to take a hard look at every license, it's need, and how it impacts the economy, for both entrepreneurs and consumers.

If we haven’t determined if a license actually protects us, rather than ceding that power to industry incumbents, we should opt for less red tape and more freedom.

And give more Mississippians the ability to earn a living, even if they don’t have government permission. 


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