Show Me the Red Tape

Missouri moves to cut burdensome regulations

“All individuals may engage in the occupation of their choice, free from unreasonable government regulation.”

If Missouri lawmakers have their way, this declaration of support for economic freedom and opportunity will be codified as part of a new law that seeks to undercut burdensome red tape across the Show Me State. House Bill 480, which the Missouri House passed by a wide margin, would update the state’s Sunrise Act to require that the state government impose only the least restrictive regulation on occupations and professions not regulated by the state Division of Professional Registration. The text of the bill spells out the proposed new standard:

“The state shall not impose a substantial burden on an individual’s pursuit of his or her occupation or profession unless there is an important governmental interest for the state to protect the general welfare. If such an interest exists, the regulation adopted by the state shall be the least restrictive type of regulation, consistent with the public interest to be protected.”

HB 480 goes on to list a hierarchy of 10 types of occupational regulations, ranging from least restrictive market competition to most restrictive occupational licensing. The bill, which had its first scheduled public hearing in the state Senate on Monday, would prevent the state from imposing occupational licensing requirements unless the government could show that none of the nine less restrictive regulatory means would work.

There could be more good news in the General Assembly for hardworking Missourians. HB 230, which would eliminate burdensome and unnecessary licensing requirements for hair braiders in Missouri, passed the state House nearly unanimously and is awaiting a hearing on the Senate floor, where it is expected to pass and head to Gov. Eric Greitens for final approval.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) has long fought to cut needless red tape around entrepreneurial Americans’ ability to earn an honest living. IJ filed a lawsuit over Missouri’s onerous licensing requirements for hair braiders, which means that a federal court could soon force a solution to this problem if the General Assembly drops the ball on fixing it legislatively. IJ also has a model braiding law to help lawmakers to untangle the excessive regulatory web around the demonstrably safe practice of natural hair braiding. IJ’s “Barrier to Braiding” report also shows that somebody is 2.5 times more likely to get audited by the IRS than a licensed or registered braider is to receive a complaint of any kind.

Together, HB 480 and HB 230 could significantly improve Missouri’s economy. HB 480’s rigorous check on occupational licensing and other regulatory burdens could improve the state’s performance on IJ’s “License to Work” report, which found Missouri had the 35th most burdensome licensing laws in 2012. With the Indiana General Assembly recently passing a law to deregulate braiding, Missouri could also be the 23rd state to join that growing trend.

Out-of-control red tape can ensnare hardworking families and turn government against the people it is supposed to serve. Missouri lawmakers should make sure every worker and entrepreneur, from Kansas City to the Bootheel, can enjoy real economic opportunity.

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