Occupational licensing has become a fashionable topic at the state level. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey has built quite the reputation from his aggressive reformation of the Grand Canyon State’s occupational regulatory code.
Texas has reformed its fair share of job licensing statute as well — such as the famous 2015 hair braiding case in Houston, wherein Isis Brantley was subjected to onerous barbering regulations and was arrested for violating them, even though braiding hair was the only service she provided.
The law was changed during the 84th Legislature in response to Brantley’s nationally-covered story.
Similarly, on October 8, Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter to the various state agencies instructing them to identify areas in which occupational licensing regulations in place can be reformed.
In the letter, first reported by Emma Platoff at the Texas Tribune, Abbott states, “Sensible licensing rules, when necessary, can protect the public from legitimate harm, but overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity.”
“Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed — or former inmates who have paid their debt to society — from building a better life,” he added.
The Texas governor concluded, “Reforming Texas’s occupational-licensing rules must be a priority for all state leaders.”
Earlier this year, Abbott used an executive order to revive the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) that was set to expire after the legislature failed to renew it by the end of the 86th Session.
The TSBPE was set to expire through the sunset process — a provision requiring the legislature to revisit the need for such bureaucracies.
The board sets licensing requirements for plumbers in the state, and plumbers became incensed when the board was not renewed.
In 2014, a post on Abbott’s website echoed the letter’s sentiment, stating, “The practice of state licensure is so ubiquitous that it rarely receives the attention it deserves, but a growing body of evidence and research reveals that occupational licensing schemes can have broad, negative effects on the job market.”
Proponents of occupational licensing assert it protects consumers from fraud and abuse when using service providers. The state plumbers cited consumer safety as the main reason to preserve the board, which was established in 1947.
Occupational licensing also serves as a government revenue stream, bringing in millions of dollars for the state from fees and fines.
Opponents of such regulations — which Abbott has counted himself among despite his revival of the TSBPE — say it overburdens specifically poorer individuals by creating unnecessary barriers to entry into the market.
Licensing requirements can cost hundreds of dollars, require hundreds of hours of training, and can often be unevenly applied from one occupation to another.
In Texas, for example, it is more burdensome to become a massage therapist ($346, 500 hours of training) than to become an emergency medical technician ($144, 150 hours of training).
The Institute for Justice, an organization that is dedicated to licensing reform, rates Texas the state with the “21st most burdensome licensing laws.”
The agencies have until December 1 to identify what reform is appropriate and to reduce application fees to 75 percent or less of the national average.
Embedded below is a copy of the governor’s letter.
Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad watching and quoting Monty Python productions.