IJ Takes the Fight to the Interior Design Cartel

June 1, 2007

A battle is raging within the interior design community between the vast majority of designers, who simply want to earn an honest living in the vocation they love, and a small faction that wants to regulate their competitors out of business.  Together with our clients and grassroots activists from all over the nation, the Institute for Justice is turning back this threat to economic liberty from the interior design cartel.

IJ attorneys Jennifer Perkins and Clark Neily, front center, join Texas interior designers at IJ’s press conference announcing our lawsuit challenging a government-imposed interior design cartel. Local Counsel Cindy Olson Bourland, right, and Local Counsel Associate Elizabeth Branch, fourth from right, also attended.

As documented by IJ’s Director of Strategic Research Dick Carpenter in his report “Designing Cartels,” the pro-regulation faction has a well-planned strategy that starts with lobbying states to enact so-called “title acts” under which anyone may practice interior design, but only license holders may use the terms “interior design” or “interior designer” to describe what they do.  The next step in the plot is to expand the title act into a “practice act,” which dictates who may actually work as an interior designer.  Despite 30 years and millions of dollars in lobbying fees, the self-appointed leader of that movement, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), has only managed to enact practice legislation in four states and the District of Columbia.

But ASID and its pro-regulation cronies are relentless, and the Lone Star State is the latest target for their drive to cartelize the industry.  Texas adopted its title act in 1991, and the interior design cartel has made sporadic efforts since then to expand it into a practice act.  This year, the clique of designers came with a full-court press, introducing bills in the Texas House and Senate that would require six years of combined college study and apprenticeship, plus passing a $1,000 privately administered national exam that has very little to do with the day-to-day practice of most interior designers.  The bills would have put thousands of talented, hard-working Texans out of business overnight.

But like the saying goes, you don’t mess with Texas—and you especially don’t mess with Texas interior designers who have the Institute for Justice behind them!

On the heels of IJ’s interior design victory in New Mexico, IJ attorneys Clark Neily and  Jennifer Perkins joined forces with a wonderful group of freedom-loving Texans determined not only to stop the cartel’s attempts to transform the title act into a full-fledged practice act, but also to throw out the unconstitutional title act altogether.  IJ delivered a one-two punch of testifying against the proposed practice act in the Legislature and then filing suit in federal court in Austin on May 9, 2007, against the title act.

As always, IJ’s communications team provided key support, this time by bringing the cartel’s nationwide efforts to the attention of nationally syndicated columnist George F. Will, who wrote a devastating column about it entitled “Wallpapering with Red Tape.”  The column left quite an impression on our friends in the resistance and even more importantly on our opponents, who were still reeling from IJ-backed battles in New Hampshire (where Clark testified against practice legislation in March) and in New Mexico.

There are still plenty of unconstitutional interior design laws left to challenge, and the pro-regulation cartel has dug in its heels for a fight.  But the Institute for Justice is fully committed to continuing this long-term campaign in Texas and across the country, not only helping interior designers beat back big government, but also working to restore economic liberty for all Americans.

Also in this issue

Free Speech Victory: Washington Supreme Court rules speech is not money and cannot be regulated

Leave a Legacy of Liberty: Join IJ’s Four Pillars Society

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