LA Daily News: Reduce glut of occupational licensing laws

The following was published in the LA Daily News. 

Occupational licensing laws increase costs to consumers, restrict employment opportunities and make it difficult for people to work in other states. While little has been done to curb even the excesses of licensing laws in California, momentum appears to be building across the country to undo licensing schemes which do little to benefit the public.

In 2015, the Obama White House called on states to ensure that licensing actually protects consumers “without placing unnecessary restrictions on employment, innovation, or access to important goods and services.”

Last year, the Little Hoover Commission reiterated these calls, noting the growth of licensing over the past 60 years, with the proportion of workers requiring licensure growing from 1 in 20 to now 1 in 5 in California. As the commission argued, California’s “thicket of occupational regulation ... desperately needs untangling” to reduce barriers to employment and the cost of services.

Much of the problem comes down to the fact that California, like most states, not only licenses so many occupations, but also refuses to remove even the most arbitrary of them. While there are more than 1,100 occupations which require licensure in at least one state, fewer than 60 require licensure in all 50 states. Consequently, California often licenses occupations that most don’t.

For example, as of 2012, California was one of only 13 states to license locksmiths and one of seven to license tree service contractors and upholsterers. This year, Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, suggested dropping licensing requirements for those and a handful of other occupations. As sensible as it was, Senate Bill 247, was voted down in on a 6-2 party line vote in committee.

Fortunately, there are encouraging developments elsewhere. The Federal Trade Commission has stepped up efforts to support licensing reform, creating an Economic Liberty Task Force geared in part toward assisting governors, legislators and other stakeholders wishing to pursue reform of licensing laws.

There’s also the new bipartisan coalition Justice for Work, made up of groups like the R Street Institute and Americans for Tax Reform, which astutely notes licensing laws make it difficult for people with criminal records to reintegrate into society by restricting access to employment opportunities.

This was also raised by the Little Hoover Commission, giving an opportunity for the state to tie licensing reform to criminal justice reform.

While there are officially sunset hearings of California’s licensing programs, they usually amount to a rubber stamping of the status quo, which burdens the public with fewer jobs and higher costs.

It’s time for California to give liberty a try and repeal dubious licensing laws.

California was one of only 13 states to license locksmiths and one of seven to license tree service contractors and upholsterers.


Jonathan Haggerty