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Deregulation efforts more likely in Republican states with fewer minorities

Initiatives to deregulate licensed professions and occupations are more likely in states with Republican legislative majorities in the state House or Senate, states with lower percentages of minority populations, and states having lower percentages of low-income occupations currently licensed, a study in the April 2017 Labor Law Journal reports.

“Licensure or License? Prospects for Occupational Regulation” reports the findings of the study which looked at the 12 states that have formulated legislative proposals dealing with occupational deregulation since 2011.

The authors tested 12 variables in these states to find correlations with deregulatory efforts: state per capita income, urbanization rate, number of low-income occupations currently licensed, unemployment rate, percentage of minority population, percentage of population with a bachelor’s degree or higher, union density, existence of “right-to-work” law, number of constituents per legislator, Republican majority in the state senate or house, and percentage of state legislators who are Republican.

Some relationship to deregulatory efforts was found with several of the variables (e.g. low union density, right-to-work laws, and higher unemployment). But only a few correlations were considered statistically significant: States with higher proportions of minority populations and low-income licensed occupations are less likely to have put forward de-licensing proposals (DLP). States with more constituents per legislator are nearly 30% more likely to have DLP. The strongest correlations related to political party: Ninety-three percent of states with DLP had a Republican majority in the state senate, and the overall proportion of legislators in a given state who are Republican is significantly higher in DLP states.

Despite the attempts, the authors note, most deregulatory bills have either not been acted upon, have died in committee, or have been withdrawn under political pressure.

There have only been eight cases of an occupation licensed at the state level being de-licensed by legislative action over the last 40 years, the study finds: barbers in Alabama (983), morticians in Colorado (1971), naturopaths in Virginia (1972), private investigators in Colorado (1977), egg candlers in Colorado (1994), interior designers in Alabama (2004, and watchmakers in Minnesota (1993) and in Wisconsin (1979).  Some other occupations such as hypnotists in Indiana and opticians in Texas have been deregulated but had been subject only to registration or certification, not licensure.

As a side issue of interest, the researchers found that the news media have “not been reluctant” to print criticism of some licensed occupations including allegations that they pose excessive costs and restrictions. Examples: “Does a ‘Shampooer’ Really Need 70 Days of Training?” (New Republic 2014); “Anti-Licensing Movement Scores a Victory” (Wall Street Journal 2015); and “So You Think You Can Be a Hair Braider?” (New York Times 2012).