“Get off my lawn!”
That was the attitude of some professional landscapers in Gardendale, Alabama. Elton Campbell’s granddaughter was cutting grass around the neighborhood to make some extra money. But as Campbell told ABC33/40, “One of the men that cuts several yards made a remark to one of our neighbors, ‘that if he saw her cutting grass again that he was going to call Gardendale because she didn’t have a business license.’”
The city required everyone to obtain a business license, which costs $110, even for the most traditional tasks, like mowing lawns. But on Monday, following a public outcry, the city passed an ordinance exempting full-time students from needing to obtain a business license for part-time jobs. That includes mowing lawns as well as running lemonade stands and babysitting.
Gardendale’s mayor said the ordinance clarified “the spirit and the intent” of the city ordinance, which should never have applied to teens working part-time. The amended ordinance now recognizes that forcing teenagers to get permissions slips to work “may discourage them from engaging in certain profitable activities, may pose an undue hardship for them and may limit opportunities for them to serve the community.”
Overzealous licensing practices are unfortunately nothing new in Alabama. In fact, according to the IJ report License to Work, Alabama licenses 47 of 102 moderate-income occupations, with an average barrier to entry of $319 in fees, two exams and 182 days of education and experience required to obtain a license.
Alabama would be wise to not require a license for anyone for a task many homeowners do themselves. The state should also follow the lead of the nineteen states that have already enacted or are considering bills to reform occupational licensing this year. Continuing to remove these unnecessary barriers is the best way to ensure that not only teens, but entrepreneurs of all stripes, will be free to innovate, earn, and contribute to their communities.