“License and registration.” That’s what Texas shrimp unloaders could be hearing when they return to dock at a port in Texas. SB 2017 and HB 1260, filed in late March and January, respectively, would prohibit shrimp fishermen from unloading their catch unless they have a government permission slip in the form of a gulf shrimp unloading license.

You read that right. To take shrimp from a boat in a Texas port, a fisherman would need to first pay the state $1,500 to obtain an unloading license.

Occupational licensing is all too often used by politically-connected insiders to keep out competition.  SB 2017 and HB 1260 are no different.  The bills carve exceptions for existing commercial gulf shrimp licensees or those holding a federal commercial vessel permit for gulf shrimp from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This would make the license at best redundant and overall an extra burden for an already heavily regulated industry.

The Institute for Justice (IJ) report, License to Work, ranked Texas as the 17th most burdensome state for occupational licensing laws. On average, these laws impose an average of $304 in fees, 326 days of training and two exams on those interested in entering licensed occupations.

The good news is that the legislative trend is moving toward deregulation of licensed occupations. Nineteen states have enacted or currently have active bills to reform occupation licensing during their current legislative sessions. So licensing is being scrutinized across the nation. And, in 2015, the Texas Supreme Court issued a landmark decision, in response to an IJ challenge to licensing requirements for eyebrow threaders, that interpreted the Texas Constitution as providing meaningful protection for economic liberty—the strongest in the nation today.

State Rep. Jonathan Stickland also published a video criticizing HB 1260: