Two Cheers for Legislators on Licensing

Good progress in 2013, more to be done

An important if usually under-the-radar public policy issue is occupational licensing – state rules that require residents to meet various criteria (and pay for them) before they may earn a living in a particular profession.

Rolling back licensure mandates requires taking on groups with a vested interest in preserving these restrictions on opportunity (and potential competitors). To its credit the previous Legislature did do some good if still-modest work in this area. In a bipartisan manner, legislators eliminated rules having to do with dieticians and nutritionists, interior designers, auctioneers, community planners, carnival workers, ocularists, school solicitors and immigration clerical assistants. It also tweaked some licensing requirements for barbers.

The Legislature also explored reforming licensure mandates on landscape architects, polygraph examiners, foresters (vetoed by Gov. Rick Snyder), residential lift installers and nurses, but these changes did not come to fruition. Many of these suggested reforms were based on a 2012 report from a state Office of Regulatory Reinvention.

For most jobs that require licenses, the mandates do not benefit the public in any measurable way. That is, there is no systematic evidence that licensure in most occupations adds to public health or safety, whether in the jobs mentioned above or in many other areas of employment, such as painting or construction.

Recognizing this, in 2013 a bill was introduced in the House to prohibit licensure mandates that cannot be shown to increase public health and safety. The Legislature should reconsider the issue this session as it would allow people to work legally, and let government get back to focusing on its core functions.

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.