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EDITORIAL: Licensing overkill hurts Nevada workers

Nevada is at the top of another bad list. This one, however, has a simple fix.

The Institute for Justice recently released its third report on occupational licensing. “License to Work” examined the barriers state governments have imposed on those trying to earn a living in more than 100 occupations. You might expect that licensing requirements are limited to a few professions that demand years of training. Being a doctor or commercial pilot, for instance.

But that’s not the case. Licensing requirements are widespread even in occupations that have no impact on public safety. For instance, Nevada is one of only three states that requires a license to work as an interior designer. The requirements are stringent, too. It costs around $1,500 in fees. The state requires four years of education and two years of experience. This is ridiculous overkill. An ugly room may be an eyesore, but it poses no danger to its occupants.

Unfortunately for those looking for work here, Nevada requires licenses in 75 of the 102 occupations considered in the report. That’s tied for third most in the country. IJ ranked the burden those licenses impose on would-be entrepreneurs and employees as second worst. Combined, that gave Nevada the worst ranking in the nation. The one bit of good news is that Nevada eliminated licensing requirements for travel agencies in recent years.

In many instances, Nevada demands a license to work in a specific occupation when more than half the states in the country have no such burdensome requirement for the same vocation. The list includes home entertainment installer, animal trainer, locksmith, sign language interpreter and commercial paint contractor. There are also several other job types where the government obviously has no compelling public interest in licensing. Those include barbers, makeup artists and manicurists.

Proponents claim licensing hoops are a form of consumer protection. Making someone earn a license, the argument goes, ensures they are qualified and able to perform the job. That sounds nice, but it’s really just a noble-sounding way to justify a protectionist cartel. Government licensing limits competition. Fewer providers reduces supply which allows those who have the state’s blessing to charge more.

It’s true that people want to hire those capable of competently doing the job. But in most cases, the ones doing the hiring are the best judge of that. It’s also never been easier to research the performance of a company or individual.

Even with Nevada’s divided government, progress in eliminating barriers to employment should be possible. With few exceptions, people shouldn’t need a permission slip from the state to earn an honest living. Gov.-elect Joe Lombardo should work with Democrats in the Legislature to roll back licensing requirements. Low-income workers would benefit the most from such an endeavor. Lawmakers should start by eliminating every licensing requirement for occupations in which workers face no such hurdles in most other states.

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