Minnesota Could Create an Interior Designer Cartel (And for No Good Reason)

Minnesota is considering a new bill (HF 1052) that would mandate licenses for interior designers. Currently, only three states, Florida, Louisiana, and Nevada, license interior designers. In Florida, practicing without a license can lead to up to one year in jail, giving new meaning to the term “fashion police.”

Do you need the government's permission
to say this looks good?

But Minnesota already has a voluntary certification process that’s garnered few complaints. Under this system, if Minnesotans want to practice interior design or call themselves an interior designer, those entrepreneurs can. But if they want to say they’re a “certified interior designer,” then they must pass a certification process, which requires six years of training. If it passes, HF 1052 would instead make this process mandatory.

The Gopher State has around 1,100 interior designers, though it’s unclear how many of them have gone through the certification process. Plus, as Tom Steward at the Watchdog Minnesota Bureau points out, “since 1992, the responsible state board has posted just seven complaints against certified interior designers, most involving lapsed certification.” With a dearth of complaints, licensure is a solution in search of a problem.

Instead of adding even more barriers to entry for entrepreneurs, Minnesota needs to reform its licensure system. According to “License to Work,” a nationwide survey by the Institute for Justice, the Land of 10,000 Lakes has the 24th most burdensome licensing laws.

Manicurists require three times as much experience as an emergency medical technician (EMT). It’s even worse for barbers: to work legally, a barber must take over 26 times as much coursework as an EMT. And unlike EMTs, manicurists and barbers don’t deal with life or death situations on a regular basis.

Of course, there is a potent financial incentive behind occupational licensing. According to research by University of Minnesota Professor Morris Kleiner, licensing boosts wages for those with a license by 15 percent, while jacking up prices for consumers. These higher prices for goods and services are estimated to cost consumers over $200 billion a year nationwide.

In Minnesota alone, 15,000 new jobs could be created just by repealing unnecessary occupational licenses. Last year, a bill was introduced to do just that, but it died in committee. More recently, Michigan lawmakers are considering a wide variety of licensing reforms.

The Institute for Justice has long battled the interior design industry’s attempts at creating a cartel and eliminating the competition. In his new book, Terms of Engagement, IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily recounts how IJ sued Florida over its ridiculous interior design licensing law. (Spoiler alert! The cartel won.)

-- Nick Sibilla

Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice

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