“Do we allow people to have consumer choice or do we allow government to decide for them?”
That was the question posed by state Sen. Eric Brakey at a Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee hearing last week for LD 1036, a bill which would eliminate as many as 24 occupational licenses in Maine. Sen. Brakey, who drafted the bill, based his selection of licenses on the Institute for Justice’s License to Work report. If an occupation was licensed in fewer than 40 states it was included in the bill for elimination.
Under LD 1036, the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation would study and develop recommended legislation to “transition to the removal of all licensing, permit, certification or other occupational authorization requirements” for the following occupations:
- Wood measurer or scaler
- Electrical helper
- Dietetic technician
- Funeral attendant
- Underground oil storage tank inspector
- Cathodic protection tester
- Sign language interpreter
- Animal control officer
- Employee of slot machine facility or casino facility
- Animal breeder
- Teacher assistant
- Debt collector
- Fire alarm installer
- Veterinary technologist
- Security guard
- Massage therapist
- Mobile home installer
- Packerand be it further
At the hearing Sen. Brakey read from both the Maine section of License to Work and a blog by the Obama White House about a report released in July 2015 calling for licensing reform. According to License to Work:
Maine licenses 39 of the 102 low- and middle-income occupations studied. Residents seeking to enter these occupations can anticipate, on average, paying $206 in fees, losing 226 days to training requirements and taking one exam, making Maine’s the 30th most burdensome licensing laws.
Members of the public who came to testify on the bill were all either neutral or in total opposition to the bill. It is not unusual for licensing reform bills to be met with strong opposition by bottleneckers. The book Bottleneckers: Gaming the Government for Power and Private Profit defines a bottlenecker as a person who advocates for the creation or perpetuation of government regulation—particularly through occupational licensing—to restrict entry into his or her occupation.
Nonetheless, this isn’t the first time that Sen. Brakey has tackled licensing reform. He successfully co-sponsored a bill in 2015 to exempt hair braiders in Maine from cosmetology licensing requirements. Licensing reform bills have also been enacted or are actively filed in 18 other states in the current legislative session.