The Institute for Justice Calls On Arizona to Reform Its Licensing Laws

Institute for Justice · January 12, 2016

Tempe, Ariz.—In yesterday’s State of the State Address, Gov. Doug Ducey recognized that Arizona desperately needs to reform—and eliminate—barriers to entrepreneurship, especially its occupational licensing schemes. The Institute for Justice agrees. The Arizona Legislature and governor must reform—if not eliminate—numerous Arizona licensing schemes to get rid of needless occupational licenses and, for those licenses that remain, take steps to ensure that industry insiders do not control regulation through self-interested boards.

In its landmark 2012 report License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing, IJ found that Arizona was the most broadly and onerously licensed state in the country. Arizona licensed the second most middle-to-low-income occupations of all 50 states and the District of Columbia and also had the fifth highest average burden of licensing requirements. These requirements make it much harder for people to earn an honest living because they create artificial barriers to entry for people seeking to take their first step up the economic ladder. Getting a license can require years of needless training or experience and cost a person hundreds, if not tens of thousands, of dollars. That is why industry insiders often call for such regulations: to make it more difficult for new competitors to enter the market.

“IJ has been suing Arizona for years over its occupational licensing schemes,” said Tim Keller, managing attorney of IJ’s Arizona office. “We have helped many Arizona entrepreneurs overcome protectionist licensing schemes, including hair braiders, eyebrow threaders, landscapers and others. We have worked with lawmakers to protect others, including makeup artists. Arizona needs to be more proactive in protecting the economic liberty of all Arizonans.”

The need for occupational licensing reforms is a bipartisan issue. Governor Ducey’s recognition of the problem today follows years of study by IJ and similar organizations, as well as the White House’s July 2015 report Occupational Licensing: A Framework for Policymakers, which called for major reforms.

Demonstrating the real-world effects of these licensing schemes enforced by self-interested boards is a case IJ is currently litigating against the Arizona State Veterinary Medical Examining Board. IJ is representing Celeste Kelly, Grace Granatelli and Stacey Kollman, three Arizona entrepreneurs who decided to turn their love of animals into successful businesses. Each spent hundreds of hours learning about animal anatomy and developing massage techniques to obtain private certifications in animal massage.

But the Vet Board—which is controlled by veterinarians—ordered animal massage therapists to stop or face potential jail time and thousands of dollars in fines. The Vet Board declared that only veterinarians could perform animal massage, even though animal massage is not mentioned in Arizona’s veterinary statutes, is not taught in veterinary school—a four-year endeavor that can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars—and is not tested in veterinary exams. Meanwhile, human massage therapists are not required to become doctors before practicing their craft. Animal massage therapists should not be subjected to such unnecessarily burdensome licensing. Stopping Celeste, Grace, Stacey and others like them does nothing to protect the public, but it does protect veterinarians’ profits.

“The time to act is now,” agreed Paul Avelar, IJ senior attorney. “The governor and the Legislature must address the big reforms that are necessary in this area. The governor’s call for reforms today is vital. If the government is not proactive in protecting the economic liberty of all Arizonans, the government will have to answer for its violation of economic liberty in the courtroom, as the Vet Board case demonstrates.”