While some licensing and occupational laws do serve a legitimate public interest, too many instead are used to protect special interests with bigger government and barriers from competition. Several bills filed this session will do just that if conservatives don’t take action to kill them before they become law.
Sadly, many of these bills protecting incumbents from competition in the name of “public safety” are written by Republicans—the same Republicans who profess a love of free markets and limited government when they’re back home in district.
SB 311 by Sen. John Carona may be the most noteworthy example. His bill would require all roofing contractors to obtain a license from the state by passing a test, providing proof of liability insurance, undergo criminal background checks—and pay a fee of course! (State Rep. Ken Sheets, who otherwise has an impressive record as a Taxpayer Champion, has filed identical legislation in the House.*)
By doing so, SB 311 would put many small and medium-sized roofing companies out of business, limiting the supply of legal roofing contractors and therefore raising costs for consumers. (But it’s great for the insurance industry at least, which stands to profit from the stricter insurance mandates.)
Other Republicans have filed similar special interest bills:
HB 1449 by Rep. John Kuempel would, among other things, require dog and cat dealers to be licensed by the state and get a mandatory veterinary examination for each animal before it can be sold to the public. That’s great if you’re in the veterinary business; not so much if you’re the consumer paying the added costs of those bills rolled into the price of your new dog or cat.
HB 1507 by Rep. John Zerwas would set “minimum standards” for birthing centers, including having a “certified midwife” (registered nurses or advanced nurse practitioners specializing in delivery and newborn care) or a licensed physician on staff. Physicians love it because it makes it harder for birthing centers to compete with hospital deliveries, and it artificially raises the demand for their professional services! Families on the other hand… they get to pay higher costs as a result — something most families try to avoid by choosing birthing centers in the first place.
HB 2062 by Rep. John Davis would mandate anybody in the business of “rainwater harvesting” to become a licensed plumber. In other words, if you hire someone to set up equipment to collect rainwater for landscape irrigation or other domestic uses in your home, they must be licensed by the state to do so. That’s a great protection for plumbers who may be afraid of being undercut by competition, but is it really a compelling state interest to protect people from poor installation of water harvesting equipment on their own property?
There are more bills like these filed by Republicans and Democrats alike that have special interests, rather than the people’s interest, at heart. Conservatives seeking to defend free markets and limit government should use every tool available to kill these bills before they have a chance to become law.
*UPDATE*: We’ve been told by Rep. Sheets’ office that some of the more egregious provisions of his bill will be addressed with a committee substitute.