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Occupational license review worthwhile

January 19, 2018
Originally Posted on American Press

Gov. John Bel Edwards wants the Legislature to review state occupational licensing requirements during the 2018 regular session, a move that is pro-business and one that is certain to create some controversy. However, it is an area that needs a critical review.

Consider that Louisiana is currently the only state that requires licensing for florists and one of just four that requires licensing for interior designers, according to The Advocate. The state ties Washington for the most occupations licensed.

The newspaper said a report from the Institute for Justice last November called on the state to repeal some occupational licenses or adopt scaled-back regulatory alternatives when licenses are needed for safety reasons. The institute said often the state’s laws were more burdensome than in other states.

“We’re going to be looking at a number of things that we will do to move the state forward,” Edwards said. The governor hasn’t said which other licenses he wants to examine, but he spent considerable time recently meeting with business leaders across the state that obviously brought up the licensing issue.

Stephen Waguespack, president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said LABI supports smart deregulation and reform to Louisiana’s occupational licensing system. He said his organization is willing to work with Edwards and the Legislature to get the job done.

Numerous boards are created to handle those occupational licenses and all of that adds costs to the licenses that are issued.

Mike Strain, state commissioner of agriculture and forestry whose agency oversees the issuance of many licenses, defended the process. Safety and competence are primary concerns, he said.

“There’s a certain amount of regulation to make sure the public gets what it pays for,” he said. “If you’re running a floral business, you have to have a license — you have to know what you’re doing.” He added, “Would you want an arborist (tree surgeon) working around your house that wasn’t licensed and insured?”

Some occupations do need regulation for safety and other reasons, but overregulation is a deterrent to small businesses in particular. Reviewing the large number issued in Louisiana is the only way to eliminate those that are no longer necessary.