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Study says occupational licensing burden in Idaho ranks 36th in nation

Study says occupational licensing burden in Idaho ranks 36th in nation

Mitch Coffman
May 14, 2012

Idaho ranks 36th in the nation for the occupational licensing burdens it imposes to work in the state, according to a report from the Institute for Justice (IJ), a non-profit, libertarian public interest law firm based in Arlington, Va.

Founded in 1991, its website says its “mission is to provide pro bono legal advice and representation, litigating strategically to pursue its goal of a rule of law under which individuals can control their destinies as free and responsible members of society. It litigates in four core areas: economic liberty, property rights, free speech and school choice.”

The report defines an occupational license as “government permission to work in a particular field. To earn the license, an aspiring worker must clear various hurdles, such as earning a certain amount of education or training or passing an exam.” The report contrasts licensing today with the past. “In the 1950s, only one in 20 U.S. workers needed the government’s permission to pursue their chosen occupation. Today, that figure stands at almost one in three.”

One of the study’s conclusions is that occupational licensing is a barrier making “it harder for people to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs, particularly minorities, those of lesser means and those with less education.”

The study says that “occupational licensing is not only widespread, but also overly burdensome and frequently irrational.”

For examples:

- There are 10 states requiring four months or more of training for manicurists. By contrast, Alaska demands only about three days and Iowa about nine days. Idaho requires 93 days of training.

- Public health and safety risks for occupations are a moving target among the states. There are 66 of the studied occupations requiring greater average licensing burdens than for emergency medical technicians (EMT). On average, for instance, a cosmetologist spends 372 days in training; the average for an EMT is 33. In Idaho, a would-be cosmetologist has 467 days of training, an EMT 26 days.

The IJ report, “License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing,” looked at 102 occupations in 50 states and the District of Columbia. It then ranked them based on cost of obtaining a license, educational requirements, exams involved to obtain a license and how many states require licensure of those 102 occupations.

Using those markers, Idaho ranked as the 36th most burdensome state. Of the 102 occupations considered, Idaho has occupational licensing requirements for 47 of them; the all-state average is 43. The 47 occupations requiring licensing put the Gem State in 23rd position in the number of occupations needing a license. Wyoming licenses the fewest occupations at 24; Louisiana the most at 71.

States surrounding Idaho and their occupational licensing burden rank: Nevada, 3rd; Oregon, 6th; Utah, 13th; Wyoming, 32nd; and Montana, 49th. Hawaii is ranked as the most burdensome state for licensing, Pennsylvania the least.
Idaho finds itself in rare company for two of the 102 occupations in the report. The state is one of only two licensing log scalers (who must pass two exams for a license) and one of nine licensing farm labor contractors (who must pay $250 to the state for a license).

There are more than a dozen occupations requiring licenses in at least 80 percent of the states including: teacher, heating and cooling contractor, athletic trainer, barber, cosmetologist, bus driver, truck driver, earth driller, skin care specialist, manicurist, emergency medical technician and pest and pesticide applicator.

On the other end of the licensing spectrum—the occupations with less than 20 states mandating licensing—include cathodic protection tester, backflow prevention assembly tester, log scaler, farm labor contractor, interior designer, florist, forest worker, pipe layer, fire sprinkler tester, conveyor operator and nursery worker.

The report provides a state-by-state summary comparing individual state licensing to other states. It say on average in Idaho “those seeking jobs in these occupations must pay $122 in fees, lose 240 days to training mandates and must pass one exam,” adding “Idaho's licensing rules present a heavy burden to people seeking to enter specific occupations.”

Idaho examples in the report:

- The report cites fire alarm and security alarm installers in Idaho as “required to obtain four years of education and experience before receiving a license. The national average for these occupations is 486 days and 535 days, respectively.”

- It also notes Idaho is one of only eight states mandating that that truck drivers and bus drivers possess a driver's license for a year (or more) as a condition for licensing and is also one of 20 states with a similar requirement for school bus drivers. “Other states require only tests, fees, a minimum age and in some states a short course or training session for these occupations,” says the study.

- Idaho requires barbers receive 630 days training compared to the national average of 416 days.

- Cosmetologists must obtain 467 days training with the national average at 372 days.

- HVAC contractors take 1,494 days training versus a national average of 891 days.

The report questions the value of licensing given so many variations among the states, concluding, “Such inconsistencies give good reason to doubt that many licensing schemes are necessary. These inconsistencies may reflect not the relative public health and safety risks of occupations but instead the lobbying prowess of practitioners in securing laws to shut out competition.”

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