IJ Testifies Before Senate Committee Hearing on Licensing

The momentum continues to build against strict licensing laws.

On February 2, 2016, the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust, Competition Policy, and Consumer Rights held a hearing on the merits of state occupational licensing regulations. Among those testifying before the committee were IJ Attorney Robert Everett Johnson, along with IJ client Bill Main, whose tour guide business was threatened by onerous licensing requirements. Johnson spoke against the practice of state licensing boards appointing members of the industries they’re supposed to regulate who have a vested interest in keeping competitors at bay. As Johnson put it:

“If you have the fox guarding the henhouse, if you turn over the keys to the regulatory machine to people who are members of the regulated industry, then you have to have some sort of supervision.”

Main added to the testimony by relating his own experiences with licensing requirements restricting his business for the benefit of established businesses. He told the committee:

“What this license is doing is protecting the guild of guides. It is preventing us from speaking and earning our living.”

A recent Forbes opinion piece by Utah Senator Mike Lee highlighted several examples of occupational licensing as a deterrent against honest competition. Lee points out professions like florist, interior decorator, hair stylist, tree trimmer, and auctioneer, often require licenses in spite of no clear public health or safety risk being present in their work. Even things like teeth whitening kiosks in shopping malls, which allow customers to apply FDA-approved products to their own teeth, require approval from state dental boards that would prefer fewer competitors. Lee notes:

“Occupational licensing has grown not because consumers demanded it, but because lobbyists recognized a business opportunity where they could use government power to get rich at the public’s expense.

Established professionals (who are almost always exempt from new licensing requirements) get state-sanctioned monopoly profits, lawmakers get campaign contributions from those licensed professionals, and lobbyists get a little taste from everyone involved.

Everyone wins but the American public.”

Read more about IJ’s work on occupational licensing reform here.

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