Reprinted from the Des Moines Register Dec. 6
“Iowa frequently licenses occupations that are rarely licensed elsewhere.”
So begins the section about Iowa in the new edition of License to Work, a report from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm. Authors examined work requirements for 102 low-income occupations in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Iowa was embarrassed on job licensing again.
On average, states license 54 of the occupations examined, which include everything from landscapers and barbers to auctioneers and taxidermists.
This state, however, licenses many more — a total of 71. Compare this to neighboring states: Kansas licenses 35, Minnesota 34, Illinois 40, South Dakota 32 and Missouri 37.
Forcing people to obtain government permission to work stifles economic growth, reduces competition in lower-wage industries, raises costs for consumers and frequently does not make anyone safer.
Iowa “also places some of the highest experience requirements in the nation on barbers and cosmetologists,” according to the report. “Aspiring licensees must demonstrate 2,100 hours of experience, while EMTs need only demonstrate 110 hours to become licensed.”
In other words, you need nearly 20 times as many hours of training to cut hair as you do to respond to a heart attack victim. Meanwhile, HVAC contractors must obtain 2,190 days of training and experience, according to the report. That is about twice as long as other states licensing these workers.
Such inconsistencies are common throughout Iowa law and rules.
Ultimately, the authors of the report suggest the same thing this editorial board has repeatedly suggested: State lawmakers should reduce and repeal unnecessary requirements to work in many professions. Not all of them, but many of them.
Government licensing should exist only to protect public safety and health, not legitimize a certain profession or prevent more workers from entering it. Among the questions Iowa leaders should ask about every requirement related to occupational licenses in this state: Does it exceed requirements in other states? Does it make sense? Does it make anyone safer?
Not just anyone should be able to perform a knee replacement, but one does not need extensive, required training to legally style a wig.
Public health is not protected by requiring someone to train for 600 hours to be a make-up artist or pay $893 in fees to install security alarms. Iowa even requires government permission to be a “milk sampler,” the report notes.
This year, lawmakers proposed a lengthy bill on licensing that lacked any coherent guiding principles about which workers should be overseen. It contained inexplicable inconsistencies like eliminating a board for barbers but not cosmetologists and replaced licensing of therapists and others with undefined “registration.”
The bill was a mess, ultimately abandoned and a reminder reform must be thoughtful.
When the Legislature convenes in January, lawmakers should try again. Because they and their predecessors are to blame for Iowa being ranked in the Institute for Justice report as the 12th most “broadly and onerously licensed state, making it one of the worst states for occupational licensing for lower-income workers.”
Elected officials who claim to be advocates of smaller, less intrusive government should be clamoring to eliminate burdensome requirements that discourage business creation and limit opportunities for workers.