Occupational Licensing

Halloween Costumes, Barbers, and Farm Fixers: Occupational Licensing Round-Up

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Don't massage that horse without a license. In your Halloween costume.

Unlicensed Halloween costumes! Barber school monopolies! And fines for farm fixers! Read on for tales of excessive regulation.

From Illinois:

Officials with the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced this week the seizure of $1,600 worth of colored contact lenses from a convenience store. Selling the Halloween-inspired contact lenses, even though they are just for aesthetic purposes, is regarded as the unlicensed practice of optometry and subject to a $10,000 fine. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers cosmetic contact lenses to be medical devices and requires manufacturers to submit the lenses for pre-market approval. In Illinois, they can only be legally obtained with a prescription from one of the state's nearly 2,000 optometrists.

From West Virginia:

State law requires barbers, cosmetologists, manicurists, and aestheticians to attend state-licensed trade schools before obtaining a license. According to the Charleston Daily Mail, only 314 of the 917 students registered at the schools received a license in 2010, just 34 percent.

The schools are expensive. Adam Higginbotham, the executive director of the Board of Barbers and Cosmetologists, estimates that the average cost of a cosmetology degree is $10,000—some schools charge more than $20,000. "You don't want to tell your students coming in the first day of school . . . 'Look at 10 of your other students. Six of you will fail and have thousands of dollars of debt and not have a career,' " Higginbotham said.

There are 14 beauty schools and only one barbering school in the state. In 2011, the board cited 38 people for holding themselves out to be a barber, cosmetologist, manicurist, or aesthetician without a license.

From California:

Governor Jerry Brown signed a law this week boosting penalties for unlicensed farm labor contractors, who recruit and transport farm workers. Contracting without a license is already illegal and punishable by up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. However, because filing criminal charges is costly to the state, few violators were being prosecuted. The new law allows the Labor Commissioner to levy civil fines directly—starting with a maximum of $10,000 for a first offense.

Licensees must pay a $500 fee and take eight hours of continuing education classes annually after passing a one-time four-hour examination and putting up a $25,000 to $75,000 surety bond (depending on payroll size).  

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