By Sara Rimensnyder
You wouldn't think you'd need a pharmacist to buy a newspaper. Or a pair of pantyhose. Or a box of jelly donuts. But that's the situation in Connecticut, where state regulations require certain drugstores to shut their doors entirely if there's no druggist on duty. Now that an increased education requirement has caused a shortage of pharmacists, the law is inconveniencing customers and businesses alike. Neither the stores nor the state keeps track of shutdowns, so it's unclear how many shops have been affected. But anecdotal evidence suggests that employees at more than a dozen stores got an unexpected day off over the Labor Day weekend.
The closure requirement is an irksome remnant of the days when drugstores sold drugs and convenience stores sold snacks and periodicals. It's just one of many regulations dictated by Connecticut's Pharmacy Commission. For example, there's the "tech ratio": For every pharmacist, there can be no more than two technician assistants. The rule is supposed to enable pharmacists to make sure the technicians don't screw up when filling bottles, inserting cotton, and putting on caps. Such a requirement works well for pharmacists in theory: Like licensing, it re-stricts entry into the profession and keeps its practitioners in high demand. But in practice, now that pharmacists are spread thin, it burdens them with grueling hours and understaffing.
The increase in the education requirement-part of a nationwide professionalization drive-is directly responsible for the sudden pharmacist shortage. Connecticut pharmacy schools didn't graduate any classes this year; would-be graduates instead have to stick around for a sixth year. At the same time, fewer students are enrolling in pharmacy schools. Neighborhood pharmacist has never been a glamorous career choice, and the position's growing reputation for stress probably isn't adding any allure. Nor is the extra year of training.
Grace Nome, a lobbyist for the industry group Connecticut Chain Drug Stores, questions whether the state needs such inflexible restrictions. She mentions a rule mandating that pharmacies stay open for at least 35 hours per week, a measure designed to protect the consumer. "In all honesty, you can only make a customer mad so many times, and then they're not coming back," she says. Nome is baffled by the tech-pharmacist ratio, which she sees as placing an unneeded burden on working pharmacists. "These pharmacists need relief," she says. "The tech ratio should be increased immediately to 3 to 1." After all, how many pharmacists does it take to screw a cap on a bottle?
By Michael W. Lynch
The disability access movement may soon have another victory under its belt. In September, Kenneth McGrath, owner of an English lap dance lounge called the Pussycats Club, petitioned local authorities for an exception to the strict no-touch clause in his establishment's license. The proposal originated with two blind attendees at a stag party who felt that touching the girls would give them a better feel for the contours of the dancers' art.
"Given their disability," McGrath told London's Daily Telegraph, "they felt controlled touching ought to be permitted for registered blind persons only and with the lap dancers' consent." A survey of the club's employees found that 11 of the 15 dancers would consent, under certain restrictions. The only thing standing in the way of 13 people's happiness is the local government, which has promised to consider the request.
By Brian Doherty
The college town of Gainesville, Florida, awash in small, quasi- or unprofessional local bands, recently realized it was sitting on a potential gold mine in occupational licensing fees. Since 1953, a local statute has listed "artist"-no further elaboration given-as a "professional" category required to pay a yearly occupational licensing fee to the city. The current yearly fee is $100, same as for a lawyer.
In September, the city's Department of Cultural Affairs contacted bands with whom it had contracted for downtown public concerts, notifying them of a meeting to discuss a new enforcement policy for anyone making money as a musician. Someone started spreading the notice on the Internet, and over 150 local musicians showed up.
Gainesville musician Alyson Carrel says, "Not only were the city and Department of Cultural Affairs unprepared for this type of turnout, but they were unprepared to answer even the basic questions raised. When asked the legal definition of an artist, the city and Department of Cultural Affairs were unable to answer. At one point they said all performers-for instance, all six members of PopCanon, my band-would have to pay an occupational license fee of $100 apiece, each year they are doing business. After further questioning, they changed their minds, saying, Oh no, only the organizer for the band, the one who books the show and receives payment, would need to pay."