Occupational Licensing Reform: Not Just for Red States

Occupational Licensing Reform: Not Just for Red States

Folks in "liberal Massachusetts" are currently looking at the cost of occupational licensing, thanks to a report from the Pioneer Institute (with help from our friends at the Institute for Justice). 

Their report points out some of the many inconsistencies like those we've seen in Nebraska. For instance, as this Boston Globe article points out, the differences in licensing requirements between cosmetologists and emergency medical technicians (EMT's):

Cosmetologists and emergency medical technicians don’t have much in common.

Cosmetologists treat skin, style hair, and paint nails. EMTs respond to 911 calls, administer urgent medical care, and rush patients by ambulance to hospitals.

Cosmetologists are beauty-industry professionals who help people feel good about their appearance. EMTs are first responders who help people survive violent traumas and heart attacks.

Cosmetologists rarely face a life-threatening crisis on the job. EMTs make life-or-death decisions every day.

But there is one thing cosmetologists and EMTs do have in common: Both must be licensed by the state. The amount of training and experience needed to obtain those licenses, however, could hardly be more different. An applicant for a Massachusetts EMT license has to complete just 150 hours of education in order to qualify. But anyone seeking a cosmetology license faces a far higher hurdle: An applicant must log 1,000 hours of education, plus two full years of hands-on experience, before the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will allow them to go into the beauty business.

What explains the disparity in licensing requirements between these two occupations?  Should we be concerned about it? The folks at Pioneer put it well:

For any licensing requirement, there will always be a small but fervent cohort of defenders: Those already in the field who want to minimize competition. The benefit they enjoy is very real — but it comes a heavy cost to everyone else.

Pioneer puts the stakes bluntly: “Occupational licensing laws make it a crime to engage in simple behaviors like cutting hair, doing someone’s nails, or arranging flowers in exchange for payment.” Government shouldn’t be in the business of keeping people from making a living. After all, you don’t need the state’s permission to be a politician or a journalist. Why should you need its approval to be a dental assistant?

Ask your legislators how LB 299 reviews of licenses are going here in Nebraska. This interim is the first one that committees have been tasked with reviews, and reports from the committees should be out in mid-December.

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