New Jersey

Points For Honesty: Pool Contractors Want to be Licensed so They Can Charge Higher Prices

This is how regulatory capture works: Trade association would get majority control of new licensing board.


Hill Street Studios Blend Images/Newscom

New Jersey could create a new category of professional licenses, and no one is even bothering to pretend that it's about anything other than driving up prices and limiting competition.

That's what licensing schemes usually do, of course, but they are usually passed under the guise of protecting consumers' health or safety. Without mandatory government permission slips, the story usually goes, unscrupulous businesses would cheat you out of your money or poison your children.

So give credit to Lawrence Caniglia for refusing to play those semantic games. Caniglia is the executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, which is pushing a bill in New Jersey to require a state license for anyone who installs, builds or services a pool or spa.

"Frankly, we're looking for a more professional industry—and you can raise the rates you're charging because you're…a (properly) licensed pool builder or service professional," Caniglia told Pool and Spa News, a trade publication.

The New Jersey legislature appears to agree with that reasoning. The bill passed the state Assembly on Thursday with a 53-13 vote and is now awaiting a vote from the state Senate.

The bill does not specify what the requirements for getting a license would be. Instead, it gives the state Department of Commerce the authority to set those rules by forming a new regulatory board: the "Pool and Spa Service Contractors and Pool and Spa Builders and Installers Advisory Committee." The bill specifies that four of the seven members on the board would have to be members of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association—giving the trade association a majority and essentially allowing it to block anyone it doesn't like from getting a license to install or service pools in New Jersey.

This is how regulatory capture happens, folks.

The NESPA has been pretty successful at getting what it wants. Pool and Spa News reports that the trade association has been working for several years to "reach licensing saturation among its territories, which include Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and eastern Pennsylvania." New Jersey is the last state without some sort of licensing requirement for pool contractors.

"We know that trade associations love licensing because it restrains their competitors, puts barries before people can get into the field and it raises their prices," says Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that frequently challenges bad licensing laws. I interviewed McGrath about New Jersey's proposed licensing rules for this week's edition of American Radio Journal (hear our whole conversation here).

New Jersey is already one of the most heavily licensed states in the country, with at least 48 professions requiring a government permission slip, according to IJ's research. As Caniglia helpfully pointed out, licensing drives up the cost of goods and services. In New Jersey, the average family pays an extra $1,200 every year because of the added cost of professional licensing schemes, according to research from the Heritage Foundation.

"It's a blind cost," says McGrath. "That's money being transferred from New Jersey families to licensees. It tends to be money going from working class people, middle income people to those who are wealthy or those who are highly organized in Trenton."

Other states shouldn't do what New Jersey is doing—something that's "always good advice," quips McGrath—and instead should be looking to remove unnecessary licensing laws in favor of other, better ways of ensuring good business practices. If there is real concern about fraud in a certain industry, states should empower attorneys general to go after unscrupulous businesses, rather than adding licensing burdens that will hurt businesses doing things the right way. If there's a knowledge gap—if consumers can't be sure whether they are hiring a good contractor, for example—states could offer voluntary certification programs to help sort the field.

If New Jersey lawmakers want to see how licensing schemes for pool contractors actually work, they can look to Connecticut, where a similar law was passed a few years ago. In September, police in Bristol, Connecticut, arrested someone for the crime of repairing a pool without a state license.

Joseph Verardi was arrested in September for doing repair work on pool tiles without a license, according to Pool and Spa News. Veradi has a home improvement contractor license from the state, but that doesn't permit him to work on a pool.

"This is important for the industry because it supports properly licensed people working on pools, and it sends the message that the state takes these laws seriously," Caniglia told Pool and Spa News at the time.

It certainly does send a message.

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  1. Frankly, we’re looking for a more professional industry

    No more brown people or young people!

    1. Well who is going to seduce my wife while I’m at work now? Jerks!

      1. I’m pretty sure you still get mail delivered.

        1. s/mail/male and you’re good to go.

        2. Just when the mail carrier feels like it.

        3. that’s why I have a PO Box for the post…..

  2. Points For Honesty: Pool Contractors Want to be Licensed so They Can Charge Higher Prices

    And thanks to the rational basis test, that’s all the reason the government needs. Thanks again, progressives!

    1. Higher prices means more tax revenue.

  3. Here in the police state of New York, lifeguards have a nice gig going, since all non-residential pools have to have a lifeguard on duty. This is the first state I’ve lived in that’s so filled with retards that my gym and apartment complex have to babysit swimmers.

    1. Having been a lifeguard for 4 years in my youth, I can attest to the fact that children and the elderly are terrible swimmers: have medical emergencies in swimming pools. Lifeguards are a very good idea at any pool. Of course, it should be a voluntary association, not state mandated.

  4. I assume there will be an English proficiency requirement, eh, hombres?

    1. If by that you mean that English proficiency will be a negative towards getting a pool maintenence licence…

    2. More like Italian.

      1. Yeah, this will create a nice opening for formerly unemployed older gentlemen in velour tracksuits to find gainful consulting work keeping pool management companies in good standing with the licensing board.

  5. Other states shouldn’t do what New Jersey is doing?something that’s “always good advice,” quips McGrath…

    Yeah no shit.

    1. NJ is the armpit or the asshole of the local galactic cluster, one or the other, TBD soon…

      1. NJ is America’s armpit, FL is the wang, the gulf coast is the taint, and CA is the ass.

        1. America cuts a strange figure.

  6. Good luck with that buddy. Architects did one better and started amping up the educational requirements to do the same thing.

    Unfortunately, the market has a way of beating the shit out of you, inspite of all the roadblocks you try to put in the way.

  7. “Frankly, we’re looking for a more professional industry?and you can raise the rates you’re charging because you’re?a (properly) licensed pool builder or service professional,” [executive director of the Northeast Spa and Pool Association, Lawrence] Caniglia told Pool and Spa News, a trade publication.

    Of course his candor, even if unwitting, is welcome. Of course those of us who know economic history know that groups or organizations pushing for regulations and licensing in the past were very open and frank about their reasons for pushing for these restrictive policies and which followed the same vein: reducing access to the market to only a few well-connected, in order to keep prices up and the undesirables (mainly minorities and poor unmarried women) out of the market.

    The proponents of higher minimum wage levels today do not want to hear that the groups that pushed for higher minimums in the past had no compunction about their true motives, which were to keep blacks and women out of the workforce.

  8. I’m sure out resident communist Chemical Engineer pool boy approves.

    1. That reminds me of a joke my Mechanical-Electrical Engineering father used to tell about Industrial Chemists who graduated without any job prospects. This I.C. answered an add for a job in a Circus. The manager told him that he needed a lion and so gave the I.C. guy a lion suit and asked him to roar at the rest of the lions so that he wouldn’t be attacked.

      So the Industrial Chemist donned this lion suit, and went on to perform his part albeit with a lot of apprehension. Aftdr all, it was this job or nothing. After a few cracks of the whip by the lion tamer, the Chemist let out a mighty “ROAR!” towards another lion, to let him know who was boss. All of a sudden, the other lion said “Take it easy, buddy! I’m a Chemist, too!”

  9. If there is real concern about fraud in a certain industry, states should empower attorneys general to go after unscrupulous businesses[…]

    So much for “Free Minds And Free Markets“.

    We all know that (wink, wink!) markets can’t regulate themselves!

    1. If only there were some other way to address fraud.

      1. Regulate the fraud so that it’s legal?

  10. Honesty, schmonesty – he was talking to a trade publication. His own peeps.

    I doubt the legislature is going to be anything like honest with the public.

  11. A bold move, NESPA?

    1. Is that you, Monsieur Poirot?

  12. Since I get all of my economic information from my progressive friends, I have never heard of regulatory capture. I blame free markets and demand that government step on and do something.

      1. The government has been stepping on us – forever.

  13. Apparently the risk of my pool working poorly is such a major concern that banning me, the pool owner, from hiring whoever the fuck I want to install and fix it is necessary.

    That’s so stupid I have a hard time even arguing against it, because once you accept that it’s the government job to keep my pool working properly, you’re too far gone to save.

    Sure, most people get swayed by the idea they’re limiting faceless corporations and shady back-alley con men with these laws, but in the end they’re really banning consumers from consuming anything without their say-so. People are stupid not to see that.

  14. So what’s the matter with requiring a “permission slip” to do a particular job? We already require one to work (proof of citizenship or green card), to travel (government issued id to get on a plane, train or boat), to buy blood pressure medicine (MD’s prescription), etc. etc., not to mention the things that the commentariate would all complain about (gun permits, for example). Islands of regulation in a sea of liberty Islands of permission in a sea of regulation.

  15. Bored Housewives hardest hit

    1. Not if one of the requirements for a permit involves the length of your, um, feet.

  16. seems the more “progressive” a state becomes the more repressed/oppressed her people get. California brought in their insane “Bureau of AUtomotive Repair decades ago…. anyone and/or their dog could pay the twennyfidollah “ante” to play, It meant nothing…. the “benefits” were that if the shop ripped you off you could sue in Small Claims Court, you were given the “option” of getting your dead parts returned, and you had to pay the bill before you could take your car back. Anyone “caught” fixing someone else’s car without that bit of paper to hang on the wall was subject to prosecution for operating without the required Mother May I Card.

    1. We had a hilarious test case in my small town. A local had been severly hurt in a sawmill accident, lost one arm to just below the shoulder. The state’s Workmen’s Comp diddled him out of his due, he could not find work, so he began to repair others’ cars. He was slow, sure, but did good work. He charged by flat rate, so he just got less per hour. His wife/kids weren’t on welfare, good work for others, everyone was happy… except the “you rainin on mah pah RAID state dude. He busted the guy. The fun came when he made his case in front of the judge about how this “dangerous” creep was bilking the public by not having paid the state $25 for the priviledge of getting greasey. Soliod case. Until the Defendant was called. When one armed Sam, wearing a tee shirt with nothing hanging out the right side hold rose and had no right hand to raise to take his oath, the judge went ballistic. WHAT!!! You mean to tell me THIS one armed man is working as a mechanic??!!??!! Case DISMISSED.

      Had a good celebration in town that night. And the State Goon had to skulk off into the sunset. Laid mightly low for a spell, he did.

  17. The septic system “engineers” in my state have done the same things. Now there can be no more gravity systems, and homeowners are designated too stupid to read a blueprint and build a “desugned system” to the blueprints. I put my own in for well under a thousand bucks before this insanity crept in. Today it would cost me at least $30K. To take a dump???!!! My system has worked flawlessly without even pumping for about twenty years. Folks with the stupid complicated systems have major expensive repairs on a five year or less basis. Insane.

    Good Old Boy Protection and Income Guarantee Club.

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