Nutmeggers Crack Open Occupational Licensing Laws

Children in grade school are used to asking for a permission slip to do anything outside the classroom—use the restroom, see a counselor, or start a club. It might seem like a no-brainer that working adults shouldn’t need similar permission slips to repair swimming pools—under pain of, not afterschool detention, but arrest and imprisonment. But as recently as last month, Connecticut not only required many hardworking professionals to beg permission to do their jobs, but even went so far as to make them pay for the “privilege.”

Fortunately, this changed when Connecticut lawmakers enacted Senate Bill 191 to “repeal and streamline certain occupational licenses, registrations and certificates in order to remove barriers for employment while still maintaining health and safety protections for consumers.”

The new law repeals several occupational licenses in the state that do not have educational or training requirements. Those include licenses for swimming pool builders, swimming pool maintenance and repair, shorthand reporters, and itinerant venders, along with registration for athlete agents and liquor wholesaler’s salesman certificates. The state Office of Fiscal Analysis predicts the eliminated licensing requirements will save affected professionals more than $180,000 in the next fiscal year, while also generating a small amount of revenue for the state budget.

While many occupational licenses are onerous and unnecessary, the ones that SB 191 repealed are particularly ridiculous. In acknowledging that the government doesn’t need to regulate how these professionals are trained or gain experience, it only makes sense that lawmakers also not require people to get government permission to work, under threat of fines or other penalties.

According to the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) License to Work report, Connecticut imposed licensing requirements that have no training or education component on 31 occupations. Unfortunately, the Nutmeg State is by no means alone. Neighboring states like New York still impose costly licenses on many professions that don’t require government-regulated training. In the egregious cases of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, roughly 60 percent of professional licenses studied in License to Work have no training component, including several that impose some of the highest licensing fees evaluated in those states. New Jersey lawmakers are even considering a bill to license pool builders, even though Connecticut just repealed its law after a contractor was arrested for the “crime” of installing a pool without a license in Bristol.

With SB 191, Connecticut joins a growing set of states that are eliminating unnecessary licensing requirements on workers. Earlier this year, New Hampshire and Indiana joined 21 other states in deregulating hair braiding, and IJ attorneys are challenging Missouri’s braiding restrictions in federal court. Lawmakers in Arizona have implemented two new laws and an executive order scaling back excessive licensing requirements in a variety of professions. An even bolder law in Mississippi could make the state the national leader in licensing reform.

Although, SB 191 undeniably moves Connecticut in the right direction on economic liberty, the state will need more substantial reforms to effectively compete with its larger neighbors and encourage a healthy economy. According to CBS, Connecticut has the second-highest level of income inequality in the country, after only New York. This problem is only exacerbated by onerous regulations on low- to medium-wage jobs. IJ’s License to Work researchers found the Nutmeg State to be the 15th most extensively and onerously licensed state in the country—significantly worse than Rhode Island or Massachusetts. Connecticut lawmakers should consider cutting burdensome red tape to help all of their hardworking residents.

 

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