Louisiana House Passes Bill to Streamline Occupational Licensing

The Louisiana House of Representatives voted late Monday to approve HB 748, a bill that would overhaul the state’s burdensome and arbitrary licenses.  Licensing has spread far beyond the realm of doctors and lawyers in Louisiana. Today, many harmless trades like interior design, braiding hair or arranging flowers can only be entered after securing the government’s permission to work. In fact, occupational licensing is now one of the biggest barriers to finding jobs, with almost 1 in 3 workers in Louisiana either licensed or certified.

According to a report by the Institute for Justice, Louisiana is the 6th most broadly and onerously licensed state. On average, a license to work for lower-income occupations requires paying $360 in fees, completing 202 days of education and experience, and passing two exams.

“Far too many workers are spending their time earning a license when they should be earning a living,” said Artur Davis, senior consultant for legislation and coalitions at the Institute for Justice.

Sponsored by Rep. Julie Emerson, HB 748 would establish a review process within the office of the governor. This analysis would use a two-step process to review both proposed and existing regulations. First, there actually has to be “credible empirical evidence of a systematic problem” that warrants government intervention. Second, if such a problem exists, the regulation must be the “least restrictive” form that imposes the lowest burdens and costs while still protecting consumers from harm.

In addition, the bill would institute a rigorous “sunset review” process. Every year, the office would examine one-fifth of the state’s occupational regulations to identify any rules or laws that should be repealed or modified so that they are the least restrictive.

“Regulation does not have to be a binary between licensing and no licensing,” Davis explained. “A least restrictive framework grants policymakers a wider array of regulatory options including private certification, inspections, bonding, and registration. Occupational licensing should only be a policy of last resort.”

If enacted, Louisiana would have one of the most robust licensing review processes in the nation. Rep. Emerson has also introduced bills that would repeal the state’s licensing requirements for interior designers, hair braiders, shampooers, eyebrow threaders and florists.

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