Arizona Governor Takes on Licensing Boards

In early February 2017, Juan Carlos Montesdeoca, an Arizona cosmetology student, got in hot water over an event he created that would give free haircuts to homeless people. The Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, which handles the licensing requirements for those in the industry, shut down the event and began an investigation, sparked by anonymous tips that he was giving haircuts without a license. This prompted Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to come out and slam the licensing board for their ‘outrageous’ behavior and called on them to end their investigation. Specifically, Ducey said, “Any actions by your board on this issue, outside of applauding Mr. Montesdeoca’s efforts, are unnecessary and uncalled for.”

Last week, Gov. Ducey took his criticisms of Arizona’s overly onerous licensing boards to the next level with a new executive order. The order requires over two dozen licensing boards in Arizona to defend their licensing practices. Per the Governor’s office:

The governor’s executive order requires a number of state boards and commissions to review all requirements for each type of license that they issue—and then report these requirements accordingly. If the licensing requirements are found to be excessive (compared to the national average for that license), the board will have to justify the regulation in question, specifically citing potential harm to individuals in our state.

The licensing boards have until the end of June to return their findings to the Governor’s office.

Per the Institute for Justice, a libertarian think tank, Arizona has the second most onerous licensing requirements in the nation, behind only Louisiana. In Arizona, 64 separate occupations require “an average of 599 days—more than a year and a half—of training before granting permission to work.”

Like most government programs, licensing is sold to the public as a way that government protects consumers. What licensing really does is raise prices and reduce competition, a losing combination for consumers.  Licensing harms lower class and minority workers disproportionally, by requiring time and monetary investments from those least likely to be able to afford them.

This action by Gov. Ducey is a definite step in the right direction. The goal, of course, should be to end all occupational licensing, as well as any other government created barriers to entry. In the words of the Governor Ducey, “There is great value and purpose in work. Government should never stand in the way of someone’s efforts to start a new life or profession.”

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