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Arbitrary occupational licensing in Oklahoma has gotten out of hand

Institute for Justice
To become a "hairbraiding technician" in Oklahoma, applicants must pay an application and exam fee, in addition to completing 600 hours of study and passing the exam.
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NORMAN, Okla.- Occupational licensure refers to the government practice of only allowing those who have jumped the necessary hurdles to be permitted to work in certain fields.  The ostensible reason for the various fees, exams, and education programs is to better protect the public interest, but for many occupations, licensing makes no sense at all. 

Interior design, for instance, is the most difficult occupation to enter, but it’s only licensed in three states and D.C.  Is it really the case that this profession poses a safety risk in these four jurisdictions, but not in the other forty-seven states?

Until 2011, Louisiana casket makers were forced to be licensed as funeral directors, which included a variety of unnecessary requirements, including an apprenticeship at a funeral home and a funeral industry exam, just to sell a box.

In 2012, the Institute for Justice released a report entitled, License to Work, which examined the licensing requirements for 102 occupations nationwide.  Out of those 102 occupations, three states license more than 60, while seven states license fewer than 30.  The report found that, due to the wide variability of licensing of specific jobs among the states that the only explanation for the licensing regulations was to prevent the established industry from unwanted competition.  Just look at the way that dental boards in 25 states aggressively pursued non-dentists who offered the extremely safe procedure of teeth whitening. 

While Oklahoma licenses only 29 of the 102 occupations studied, it has the 11th most burdensome licensing requirements, according to the IJ report.  This amounts to an average of $116 in fees and 416 days devoted to training and two exams.

One Oklahoma career marked by abnormally burdensome licensing requirements is that of the social and human service assistant.  Those in this critical profession assist professionals in fields such as psychology, rehabilitation and other social work, as well as assisting families.  Only seven states license the occupation, and Oklahoma’s is the most onerous.  To become a social and human service assistant in Oklahoma, one must complete a bachelor’s degree plus two years of postgraduate experience, followed by a national exam.  These prohibitive requirements make the occupation the fourth most difficult to enter out of those studied.  The fact that 43 other states do not require any type of licensing at all means that Oklahoma’s high barrier to entry is probably in place as a way to protect the jobs and high wages from more competition.

Additionally, Oklahoma is one of only six states to license title examiners, and one of seven states to license packagers.  You also need a license to braid hair in Oklahoma, becoming a “hair braiding technician”, something that isn’t required in twenty other states.

Steps are currently being taken to address restrictive licensing in the state.  Gov. Mary Fallin created the Occupational Licensing Task Force, headed by Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston, which held their first meeting late last month. The task force will review all licensed occupations in the state, along with the agencies, boards, and commissions involved in administering licenses, and determine whether there is a public health or safety interest protected by the license.  The deadline for submitting solutions to the governor is December 31st, 2017.

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Shane Smith

Shane Smith is an accountant and freelance writer with a bachelor's degree in economics from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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