Mississippi needs to reform our regulatory and licensing burdens. Our current policies only serve to increase costs for business owners and consumers, while limiting choice for individuals and career opportunities for would-be entrepreneurs.
We have witnessed a push to make positive changes in states across the country, and even from Washington, D.C. In between dealing with the prison and Department of Human Services fallout and the normal fights over how to best spend taxpayer money, will we see regulatory reform come to Mississippi in 2020?
Gov. Tate Reeves has made red tape reduction a priority. During his State of the State, Reeves said, “We are assembling a team that is committed to ensuring that the people of Mississippi are never held back by cumbersome government. Regulations and processes that may have been well-intentioned, often serve only to slow our state down. We are going to fix that.”
That is welcomed news. Today, Mississippi has more than 117,000 regulations, which numerous empirical studies show to have a detrimental effect on economic growth. The state should begin to reign in these regulations by having each agency conduct an audit of their own administrative code. The truth is that many of these regulations are outdated, and the government doesn’t even know they exist. Thereafter, we should require two regulations be removed every time a new rule is authorized. Finally, we should implement a sunset provision, which would require the legislature to continuously monitor our administrative code and decide which regulations should stay and which should go.
Mississippi also licenses 66 low-and-middle income occupations. According to a recent report from the Institute for Justice, Mississippi has lost 13,000 jobs because of occupational licensing and the state has suffered an economic value loss of $37 million.
While they are a long way from becoming law, we have seen several bills introduced that would move the state in the direction toward economic freedom.
Last year, Arizona became the first state in the country to provide universal recognition for an occupational license an individual received in a different state. The idea was simple. Just because you cross state lines doesn’t mean you have forgotten how to practice your trade. House Bill 261, sponsored by Rep. Becky Currie (R-Brookhaven), would do the same thing, making Mississippi more welcoming to military families and new residents moving here, something the state sorely needs.
We’ve also seen steps to make it easier to work in various fields. The debate over expanded authority for nurse practitioners has been a longstanding fight in the legislature. House Bill 613, sponsored by Rep. Donnie Scoggin (R-Ellisville), would expand the scope of practice for nurse practitioners, exempting APRNs from the physician collaboration requirement after working for 3,600 hours. We need more healthcare professionals working in Mississippi, providing access in more parts of the state. This would help alleviate some of our doctor shortages.
Bills have also been introduced in the House and Senate to exempt eyebrow threaders from Board of Cosmetology regulations. Senate Bill 2127, sponsored by Sen. Angela Hill (R-Picayune), and House Bill 527, sponsored by Rep. Steve Hopkins (R-Southaven), would allow eyebrow threaders to practice their skill without having to spend 600 hours on an education that does not spend one hour on eyebrow threading. This is a small field and even though it’s growing, it won’t impact many people. Still, the current laws are symbolic of our reliance on government regulations that don’t serve a public benefit.
Regulations concerning those who use their kitchen to make and sell goodies may also be eased. House Bill 326, sponsored by Rep. Casey Eure (R-Saucier), would expand the sales cap for those in the cottage food industry to $35,000 and expressly permit operators to advertise on social media. The current limit is just $20,000, and the Department of Health had previously sent cease and desist letters to those who posted pictures of the food they are selling on Facebook or Instagram.
And Senate Bill 2196, sponsored by Sen. Kevin Blackwell (R-Southaven), would clarify that minors can run occasional businesses – such as lemonade stands – without a permit or license. This is a response to numerous localities across the country shutting down lemonade stands due to lack of permit. In a year when much of our focus is on workforce development, I can’t think of anything better for the future than teaching kids how to run a business and become an entrepreneur.
The legislature has much on their plate this year, as they do every session. These bills, and others like them, won’t generate a ton of headlines and will probably receive blowback from government regulators and those who have already played the regulatory game. But they represent the mentality the state needs to move toward for a stronger economy and less dependency on government.
This column appeared in the Madison County Journal on February 13, 2020.