Occupational Licensing

Hawaii Zipline Operators Want Protection from Their Competition

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Do Hawaiian zipline operators need licenses? A bill proposed earlier this year says yes. Hawaii's Office of the Auditor released a report this month that says probably not.

Speaking to Hawaii News Now, State Auditor Marion Higa said, "You can't protect everybody from all risk…The few injuries we could get data on were not so much because of traveling on the zipline, its [sic] more people tripping when they're on the ground."

Hawaii has 22 zipline businesses, the first of which opened in 2002, providing adventure and excitement to an estimated 480,000 to 700,000 people annually. From the report:

According to legislators we interviewed, owners and operators of existing zipline and canopy tours in Hawai'i are the main proponents of [regulation]… None of the representatives of the zipline and canopy tour industry whom we interviewed were able to provide documented evidence of harm to the public…other than inherent risks their customers willingly accept (p. 15).

…Evidence for abusive practices is slim, anecdotal, and mostly alleged by industry members against their competitors within the industry (p. 14).

…Industry members explained to us that zipline and canopy tour operators depend heavily on referrals from intermediaries such as hotel activity desks and wholesalers. To protect themselves from legal liability, these intermediaries require being added as an insured party to an operator's insurance policy. In addition, no landowner will allow use of the property, nor will a bank provide financing, without being covered by the operator's liability insurance. Because insurance is necessary and requires annual inspections, the industry is basically self-regulating (p. 18).

…Before issuing a policy, insurance companies require ziplines and canopy tours to meet [industry] standards, which include safety inspections upon installation and every year thereafter (p. 5).

Moreover, officials with the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations (DILR)—the agency that would have been given authority over the industry—are not on board. They're pretty busy; the DILR already has a multi-year backlog of over 5,000 elevators it is statutorily obligated to inspect.

Some 11 states regulate zipline operators, but, except for Florida, none of them require anything beyond paperwork documenting insurer inspection reports. The DLIR, however, speculates that in Hawaii the "use of private sector inspectors may be subject to legal challenges. In 1997, the Hawai'i Supreme Court in Konno v. County of Hawai'i, [banned the] privatization of services customarily and historically provided by civil servants."

See here and here for more Reason coverage of occupational licensure.

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  1. According to legislators we interviewed, owners and operators of existing zipline and canopy tours in Hawai’i are the main proponents of [regulation]?

    But they keep telling me businesses are against regulations. I haz a confuz!

    1. “But they keep telling me businesses are against regulations”

      I assume this is sarcasm but I have not seen you handle before so I may not be reading you right.
      Whether or not businesses are for or against depends upon a myriad of factors. Younger, more upstart companies do tend to oppose regulations. Older more “established” companies tend to favor them defending upon what they are regulating. Larger and more established companies can handle the paperwork and costs of new regulations better than more upstart ones. Established taxicab companies tend to favor regulations that limit the number of taxis on the streets of cities. Established restaurants tend to favor regulations against food trucks etc. Established entities often (though not universally) don’t like competition.
      This understanding is one of the things that makes libertarians different from so-called “conservatives”.

      1. I assume this is sarcasm but I have not seen you handle before so I may not be reading you right.

        Yes, it is sarcasm. I am a minarchist/voluntarist so I understand that rent seekers will seek rents.

        1. Glad to hear it. I am a Rothbardian myself. The more I read about Voluntarianism the more I move in that direction. I love the website Strike-The-Root.

          1. You can check out this site as well if you are interested in voluntaryism

            http://www.voluntaryist.com

  2. I’m floored by the fact that the deepest of deep blue states actually has an investigator check out whether new regulations are needed before passing them.

    1. I am assuming the answer is generally a solid “YES WE NEED THEM.”

      1. “If it saves just one life stubbed toe, it’s worth any price!!”

    2. “check out whether new regulations are needed before passing them.”

      I wish the criminals in Washington DC who claim to represent us would have such an investigator.

      1. His name is John Stossel.

        1. The greatest pioneer!

          1. No, that’s James Cameron!

    3. I’ve been in Hawaii almost 30 years and it seems Marion Higa has been the State Auditor the whole time , although I’m sure that’s not the case.

      She is a State Treasure (not treasurer).

      Her audits are absolutely scathing. They don’t come out that often as they are incredibly thorough, but as you can imagine in a horribly bloated government like Hawaii’s, there is almost no end to what she can find fault with.

      I wasn’t aware that she did statistical analysis on pending laws of this sort, but all the better.

      She really is awesome.

  3. Don’t we have to pass the regulations to find out if we need them?

    Now I have to wash my brain out. … Honey, where’d you out the chlorox?

  4. Shakabra!

    I don’t see the point of paying someone to use a slow zipline and have them tell you what to do, when the gear for face forward rappelling only costs about a hundred dollars and you can use it however and whenever you like.

  5. Business and government compete against each other only when it is politically expedient. Otherwise, they are marvelous bedfellows.

    1. Hawaii is about as crooked as chicago but much more civilized about it.

      1. There’s nothing civilized about HI’s conyism – they’re pretty open about their racist “pro-nativist” policies.

  6. “If it saves just one life stubbed toe, it’s worth any price!!”

    Unless it has to do with police procedures.

    No village left undestroyed!

  7. I’m floored by the fact that the deepest of deep blue states actually has an investigator check out whether new regulations are needed before passing them.

    Marion Higa’s office uncovers a lot of crap, producing report after report of abusive practices, said reports then being filed by the legislators unacted upon.

  8. So Hawaiian civil servants have historically provided inspections for private insurers?

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