News Story

Michigan Votes: Bill Would Lessen Mandates on Landscape Architects

Workers are forced to have seven years experience, take approved classes and provide references to the state

The State of Michigan was admitted into the union in 1837 and for most of the time since then, landscape architects were able to work without having to jump through a bunch of hoops with the government.

That changed a few years ago, but a bill in the State House would repeal some of those requirements.

In 1980, Michigan began requiring landscape architects register with the state. In 2008, House Bill 5025 was passed, establishing a committee(s) that mandates requirements to work. The state now requires seven years of education or work experience, university-level courses, and classes that are approved by the trade group, American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA). For permission to work, citizens also need five references, three of which must be licensed architects themselves.

These requirements came because of a lobbying effort, said Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia. He recently introduced House Bill 4686, which would repeal the licensing law.

"We want to eliminate some of the licensing for the non life-threatening industries to undo some of the regulatory burden in the state," Rep. Yonker said.

These types of licensing requirements hurt small businesses, said Lee McGrath, a legislative counsel with the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm.

"Occupational licensing laws hurt entrepreneurs and employees by reducing jobs and opportunity by imposing arbitrary and unnecessary requirements," he said. "In these troubled economic times, the best way to help put people back to work is to eliminate arbitrary barriers to entry into honest livelihoods."

The Institute for Justice released a study last year that looked at licensing mandates around the nation. The report found that a lot of requirements were "irrational" and "a war against work."

The Michigan chapter of the ASLA, which approves the current classes prospective landscape architects take, is against the changes. The group says that repealing licensure for landscape architects will make Michigan the only state to have done so.

In talking points arguing against deregulation, the group said:

"Landscape architects compete and collaborate with other design professions, such as architects and civil engineers. Without licensure, we simply cannot compete and our businesses cannot function. Licensure levels the playing field for Michigan landscape architects by eliminating this competitive disadvantage on a regional and national basis, even within our own profession."

They also think Michigan graduates will leave to seek work in other states without the mandate.

Rep. Yonker said they are working with some of the industries to try to shift away from state licensing to standards from the private associations, calling the current rules a "barrier to entry."

"If they feel that their industry needs to be monitored for quality, then let them do it and pay for it," Yonker said. "Why should taxpayers do it?"

Michigan requires many non-dangerous areas of work to have a special license. Some examples are paintersbarbersfloor sanders, and a variety of low-level carpenters.

The landscape architecture bill is one of a slate of bipartisan legislation that would get rid of some of the licensing mandates in the state. Michigan Capitol Confidential will be covering some of these bills over the next few weeks. 

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.