Four years ago, when Isis Brantley finally won her battle with the state of Texas over one of its occupational licensing provisions, she may not have known the amount of attention it would garner.
Isis’ 20-year battle with a law that forced her hair braiding business to keep up with barbering regulations, which required thousands of dollars in fees and thousands of hours in training, even went so far as to get her arrested. After having her story featured in national publications such as Forbes, Huffington Post, and the Washington Post, she finally forced the change she was pushing for.
House Bill 2717 from the 84th Legislature, authored by Rep. Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth), exempted hair braiding businesses from barber and cosmetology regulations. Goldman says his approach is summed up by “If it doesn’t affect safety, health, or welfare of Texans, then it shouldn’t require a license.”
Goldman worked extensively with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) on the hair-braiding bill, just as he has with most of his deregulation bills.
But that hair-braiding provision is not the only licensing regulation that impacts everyday Texans.
The Institute for Justice (IJ), a Virginia-based organization that is known for documenting occupational licensing regulations, ranks Texas as No. 21 when it comes to most burdensome regulations.
Texas has licensing restrictions for 37 of the 102 occupations that IJ associates with lower-income populations. In Texas, IJ estimates an average of 341 calendar days are lost before prospective business owners can obtain their operating license. That’s nearly a year of lost earnings. On top of that, the average cost of fees is $257.
But these fees and training requirements can vary greatly between occupations, sometimes surprisingly so. One such example is that it is more expensive and time consuming to become a massage therapist ($346, 500 hours), skin care specialist ($176, 750 hours), manicurist ($176, 600 hours), and shampooer ($156, 300 hours) than it is to become an emergency medical technician ($144, 150 hours).
When compared to cutting hair, it takes a barber 10 times longer to gain certification than it does an emergency medical technician (EMT). Measured in days of clocked-in training, it comes out to 350 days for barbers and 35 days for EMTs. When these requirements are not followed, the state can come down pretty hard on violators — similar to what happened to Isis Brantley.
One such provision includes operating as an interior designer without a license, which classifies as a “class C” misdemeanor. Taking it one step further, doing the same as an auctioneer bears a “class B” misdemeanor. Operating as a residential rental locator without a license will get you a “class A” misdemeanor while operating as an acupuncturist without a license yields a third-degree felony, per day.
HB 1893, authored by Goldman, addresses one of these issues by repealing the criminal penalty for operating as an interior designer without a license.
To become a security alarm installer, Texas requires 730 days of experience, $462 in fees, and passage of an exam before one can open a security installation business.
Proponents of occupational licensing reform have gained traction throughout the country, most notably with recent legislation signed by Arizona Governor Doug Ducey.
Texas proponents echo similar themes.
When asked whether there is a need for occupational licensing reform in Texas, Vance Ginn, Director of the Center for Prosperity at the Texas Public Policy Foundation said, “To promote the prosperity of all Texans, the Texas Legislature should eliminate unnecessary occupational licenses while protecting the public’s health and safety. Steps in the right direction would include reviewing all licensed occupations in Texas, eliminating the requirements that do not serve any public interest, and reducing licensing requirements to the point that they no longer harm workers, consumers, and economic activity.”
Anya Bidwell, an attorney with the Texas Office of the Institute for Justice, stated about occupational licensing, “Economic freedom to make an honest living is a foundation of American society. It’s important, not only for Texans but for Americans overall and they shouldn’t be burdened by occupational licensing regulations.”
Advocates hope Texas continues to deregulate occupational licensing with reforms going forward like HB 2717. On April 18, the House voted 134-1-1 in favor of Goldman’s HB 2698 which expands the parties allowed to administer the required licensing examination.
Rep. Goldman has authored four bills specifically addressing licensing for occupations in Texas in the 86th Legislature.
Years after the legislative success of House Bill 2717, it would appear that Goldman remains determined to chip away at regulations that he, and other proponents of reform, deem onerous and “impair people’s ability to work in this state.”
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.