Oklahoma Governor Wants Scrutiny of 'Unnecessary and Burdensome' Licensing

The wheels of reform turn slowly. No action expected until 2018.

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SHAWN THEW/EPA/Newscom

Policymakers in Oklahoma are undertaking a review of the state's occupational licensing laws to determine whether they are protecting the general public or creating a barrier for workers.

Gov. Mary Fallin announced the initiative on Tuesday. All licenses in the state will be scrutinized by a task force that includes state lawmakers, the attorney general, the head of the state's labor commission and several members of the state's business community.

"These unnecessary or outdated barriers make it hard for many Oklahomans, particularly those who may not have completed a formal education as well as some minorities," Fallin said in a statement.

There's a growing bipartisan consensus that mandatory government permission slips are bad for individuals and for the economy as a whole. When they don't do anything to protect the public's health or safety, licensing laws generally restrict entrepreneurial opportunities and drive-up costs for consumers. Conservative and free market groups like the Heritage Foundation, the Cato Institute and the Reason Foundation (which publishes this blog) have been taking for years about the need to reform licensing laws. They're joined by left-of-center groups like the Brookings Institution and the ACLU. Even the Obama White House last year published a report detailing how licensing limits individual opportunity and economic growth.

More than one-third of all jobs in the United States is now subject to some form of licensing, up from just one in 10 jobs in 1970, acording to research by Morris Kleiner at the University of Minnesota.

Oklahoma joins Wisconsin on the list of the states that have promised to make licensing reform a priority in 2017—though in Oklahoma's case, nothing is likely to happen until at least 2018. Fallin's task force isn't required to submit a final report until next December, at which point the legislature will decide whether to follow the group's recommendations.

They shouldn't have to look very hard to find questionable licensing laws. A 2012 study by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that challenges onerous licensing rules, found that Oklahoma had the 11th most burdensome licensing laws among the 50 states. On average, it takes 416 days—more than a year—of training to get an occupational license in Oklahoma, though the requirements range widely from license to license.

Perhaps the oddest permission slip handed out by Oklahoma's state government is the mandatory social and human services assistant license (something only six other states require, according to the IJ report). It takes more than 2,100 days of schooling to get that license.

Oklahoma also requires licenses for barbers, makeup artists, cosmetologists and skin care specialists. Beautician licenses like those have come under fire in other states for being nakedly protectionist measures that limit competition and increase costs. Becoming a barber or cosmetologist in Oklahoma requires 350 days of training and passing two exams.

"While we need to be judicious in identifying potential licensing issues for reform, we also need to consider how removing barriers for Oklahoma workers could fundamentally strengthen our state's economy through increased opportunity for tens of thousands of Oklahomans," said John Tidwell, director of the Oklahoma chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a free market group that cheered Fallin's announcement.

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  1. Jesus titting-fucking Christ I can’t wait to get up to Oklahoma and open my combo eye-threading salon/restaurant where I’ll never use any sanitation at all and mix up the chemicals I use for both aspects of business.

    Literally the only thing holding me back from killing thousands was those burdensome regulations. Now I will be given free rein to terrorize and kill thousands.

    1. Don’t try to compete with my hair-weaving/florist/coffin building one-stop shop.

    2. Before OK had those regulations, billions were dying in the streets every day from bad salon treatments.

    3. If I find a hair in my soup, it will be because Oklahoma’s licensing regime no longer exists. And I will die.

      1. You won’t be making all these jokes when the entire state dies in a matter of days after deregulation.

        1. By the next day the road crews won’t be able to gather the dead bodies from the streets.

          1. Is that what the Walking Dead is about? Deregulation killed all these people, but because the state wasn’t declaring them legally dead – no official documentation anymore, after all – they’re undead?

          2. In the new libertopian state of Oklahoma, road crews will be like the firemen in Farenheit 451. They’ll actually be tearing up the roads.

            1. That’s ok though because only regulations keep cars on the roads. No more regulations, no more need for roads.

    4. Huh, nobody called me out on my typo.

      Should be “titty”, not “titting”.

      1. And eyebrow threading, not eye threading.

        If we had regulations mandating an edit feature, I wouldn’t have to call myself out like this.

        1. Eye-threading sounds like the new hipster fad.

      2. I sort of liked “titting.” It sounds very Anglo-Saxon.

        1. I’ve been reading Bernard Cornwall’s Saxon Chronicles, and I am starting to enjoy the word “earsling” almost as much as Mr. Cornwall apparently does.

          1. Same here! Have you watched The Last Kingdom yet? It’s pretty good.

            1. No. I just found out it was in TV production. I read the first 4 or 5 several years ago, and was planning to catch up over December and read his latest. What channel/distribution network?

              1. Season 1 (which covers the first two books) is available on Netflix. Season 2 is currently in production.

                1. Cool, thanks.

  2. “Policymakers in Oklahoma are undertaking a review of the state’s occupational licensing laws to determine whether they are protecting the general public or creating a barrier for workers.”

    It would take me all of five minutes to figure that out.

    1. Well, if “general public” means “special interests,” then of course they protect the general public!

    2. They’re not authorized to spend $120,000,000/hr.

  3. When I was a wee lad growing up in CA, there was always a Mexican food stand a short walk from our house. They had the best damn enchiladas ever. It’s how I learned to love spicy food. I bet not one of those food cart vendors had a license. How I survived, it must be a miracle. I’m sure there was cactus needles and marijuana in the food, probably pieces of old sandals and dog, horse meat, not inspected by the USDA. Somehow, I lived.

    1. My mother was from San Diego. She used to go to Tiajuana a lot and eat the food from street vendors.

      She got a variety of food related ailments over the years, including worms. But she still ate there.

  4. Oklahoma also requires licenses for barbers, makeup artists, cosmetologists and skin care specialists. Beautician licenses like those have come under fire in other states for being nakedly protectionist measures that limit competition and increase costs.

    Having an occupational license issued by the Great State of Oklahoma (Medical Board, specifically), all of these in OK fall under the purview and governed by the OK State Board of Health. They are the ones who set the criteria for all health related occupations, so I don’t see these really going away, but I could see the criteria and fees being significantly reduced, La Boheme.

    “These unnecessary or outdated barriers make it hard for many Oklahomans, particularly those who may not have completed a formal education as well as some minorities,” Fallin said in a statement.

    This is the primary reason why they were introduced, since the state of public education is especially atrocious, and it’s not uncommon for people who can barely read when they graduate high school in OK to need a shit load of remedial education in a vocational school, and the licencing is a measure of remediation.

    The real fix here is to drastically improve education outcomes in OK. The Teacher’s Union, naturally, opposes that, and they were recently smacked down a tax increase for teacher’s salaries. (Which I voted against the sales tax increase, absentee.)

    1. The ripple effects of the actions of the teacher’s unions are amazing. They lay the burden of basic education off on nearly every other entity costing exponentially more in time, personnel and money than if the teachers would just do their damned jobs.

      Killing off all public sector unions would go a hell of a long way towards fixing countless problems. Sand in the gears.

    2. Fine. Let there be a test available and they can hang their results certificate on the wall and anyone who cares about it can decide who they want to go to.

  5. I’ll bet a licensed blogger would have proofread their post before publishing it.

  6. Most lefties think “regulation” means some brave, vigilant government employee searching out health hazards in restaurants and industrial waste water. It’s a lot more likely to be a bureaucrat check to see if form 27b-6 has been checked the proper 16 times, or more or less. In the latter case, it’s sent back.

    1. Regulation is when the government protects your interests from someone else’s actions. Oppression is when the government protects someone else’s interests from your action.

  7. Wait a minute — Is that “Cat Lady”?

  8. Though te Walking Dead comment made me laugh. It is slight incorrect. The real Zombies are the regulators, the regulations. They are the brain suckers of our society.

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