The other day, House Health and Welfare Chairman Fred Wood said something that is so outrageously, patently false, it deserves special recognition for its fallaciousness.
After professional sign language interpreters flooded his committee room, the panel voted almost unanimously to make it illegal for people to offer sign language interpretation services without a license. That’s when the Republican from Burley, Wood, said, “It’s not very often that a group of citizens comes to its government and actually asks to be regulated.”
“It’s true,” gushed Kelley Packer, the committee’s vice chairman from McCammon. Ah, but it’s not true. Groups of citizens are always showing up at the Legislature asking to be regulated. And usually, they get their wish, as the sign language interpreters did. Citizens ask their government to regulate them because it benefits them. It keeps out competition and usually creates shortages in that particular industry. For anyone who understands supply and demand, that obviously drives up prices.Of course, the citizens who ask to be regulated claim “public safety” as the onus. But that veneer is quickly scratched when you note that the bill makes it illegal to help someone order food at a restaurant.
Such occupational licensure makes it harder for people to earn a living by breaking into a new chosen profession. The licensure is overseen by a board dominated by incumbent businesses; they set the rules for businesses who might one day want to provide the same service. It’s not shocking, then, that the bar is set awfully high.
Wood, Packer and other lawmakers would have you believe this plea for more regulation—and the Legislature’s acceptance of it—is a rarity, because it feeds the myth of the conservative Idaho Legislature, you know, the one which insists few laws are being passed to impact the free market. And that special interests aren’t busy working the halls of the Statehouse to pass their special legislation. The fact is, this legislative session is poised to adjourn with more regulation and bigger government than when it started.
Wood has been around for a decade, so he should know the history.
Wood voted in 2009 to require licenses for midwives. That bill passed and became law. Who asked for midwives to be licensed? Why, midwives did. Also in 2009, Wood voted against a bill to require drivers license instructors to be licensed. Who asked for that government licensure scheme, which later became law? Why, driver’s license instruction businesses did. In 2012, the Legislature passed a bill to license and regulate massage therapists. Can you guess who pushed for such a thing to become law? Could it have been massage therapists?
This year, it’s hardly a secret that there is a bill—approved unanimously by a Senate panel—to license genetic counselors. Who is pushing that bill? Why, it’s none other than genetic counselors. Another bill, which Wood’s committee is expected to hear soon, would require licenses for naturopathic physicians. The sponsor of that legislation? Naturopathic physicians. At least one bill—to create a licensure board for elevator technicians—failed. It was being pushed by elevator repair companies.
So the next time someone tells you it is "rare" for a group to go to the government and ask to be governed, think carefully about whether such a statement stands up to history.
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