Papers, please: State must thin work licensing requirements

The Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm the Institute for Justice has just released a report called "License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing." It asks the question: Should you need the government's permission to work?

Nevada does not fare well.

The report documents the license requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations - including barber, massage therapist and preschool teacher - across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The group finds that occupational licensing is not only widespread, but also overly burdensome and frequently irrational.

"Barriers like these make it harder for people to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs, particularly minorities, those of lesser means and those with less education," the authors conclude.

And the need to license occupations including interior designers, shampooers, florists, upholsterers, home entertainment installers, funeral attendants and interpreters for the deaf "defies common sense," the authors write.

Most of these occupations are licensed in just a handful of states. "If, as licensure proponents often claim, a license is required to protect the public health and safety, one would expect more consistency."

The eight worst states - Arizona, California, Oregon, Nevada, Arkansas, Hawaii, Florida and Louisiana - were found to require an average of $323 in fees, 542 days in education and experience, for an average of 56 licensed occupations.

"Nevada is the most expensive state in which to work in a licensed lower- and moderate-income occupation, with average fees of $505," the Institute for Justice found. "It also requires an average of 601 days of education and experience and two exams, resulting in the third most burdensome licensing laws."

In many occupations, Nevada has by far the most expensive licensing fees. For example, to become an alarm installer in this state requires $1,036 in fees, whereas the national average is $230 for fire and $213 for security alarm installers. A license costs Nevada animal trainers $770 in fees, compared to the national average of only $93.

"Nevada also imposes burdens that appear out-of-line with concerns about protecting public safety. Emergency medical technicians can earn a license with just about 26 days of training," the report notes, despite the fact EMTs handle life-and-death emergencies, "This is far less training than required of barbers, mobile home installers, cosmetologists, makeup artists, skin care specialists, manicurists and massage therapists."

Nevada is one of only four states that license interior designers, requiring 2,190 days of education or experience. It is one of 14 states that licenses "tank testers," requiring 365 days of education or experience. It is one of 22 states that licenses opticians; one of only 18 states that licenses crane operators; one of 18 states that licenses backflow prevention assembly testers; one of only 16 states that licenses sign language interpreters; one of only 13 states that licenses locksmiths; one of only 10 states that licenses landscape workers; and one of only eight states that licenses travel agents.

License doctors, nurses, cops, airline pilots? Fine.

But travel agents? Lawn mowers? In a free market, those who can't handle those jobs simply won't get re-hired.

In case our lawmakers haven't noticed, the local economy is still struggling. State and local officials must set Nevadans free to get to work.


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