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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.

A mess o' licenses

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.The Associated Press
Monday, July 31, 2017 12:01 am

I've written several editorials over the last few years about Indiana's (so far very disappointing) efforts to get rid of the stupid licensing laws that bedevil everybody from hairdressers to bartenders. It may be on a small scale, but it's still crony capitalism at its worst, representing an unholy alliance between power-mad petty bureaucrats and small-business owners trying to protect their turfs. It's like the old story about the push cart vendor who does so well he opens his own department store and then goes to City Hall to have those awful push cart vendors outlawed before they can destroy the American way of life. Multiply that vendor by thousands of companies, and you can see the scope of the problem.

Good news for all those control freaks out there — the competition for worst licensing law is open to cities as well as states. And the current winner (and it's an ongoing, hotly contested sweepstakes) for most asinine law is New York City, which would like to have a word with your pet sitter:

Occupational licensing laws have proliferated across America — you need government approval in various states to do things like eyebrow-threading, hair-braiding and selling homemade cookies — but this might be one of the most absurd examples yet.

New York City officials appear to be stepping up enforcement of a law that requires pet-sitters to have a kennel license if they are boarding or taking care of a pal's furry friend. The city's health code requires a permit for operating a “pet shop, grooming parlor, boarding kennel or training establishment.”

The law says boarding kennels include any “facility other than an animal shelter where animals not owned by the proprietor are sheltered, harbored, maintained, groomed, exercised, fed, or watered in return for a fee.”

This story also illustrates why such licensing laws, as bad as they have been, are only going to proliferate in the future. This particular one is aimed at Rover.com, another one of those apps of the "sharing economy" that let service providers and service users connect directly with one another — in this case, pet owners and pet sitters. It's a lot cheaper and more convenient than the city licensed and fee-paying kennels, so naturally it has to be nipped in the bud like the efforts to kill Uber and Airnb. Can't let those nasty ordinary people get in the way of those who know so much better than us that they deserve to run things.

Brookings tells us just how bad the licensing problem is:

. . . licensing has massively expanded in recent decades: roughly 5 percent of workers were licensed in the 1950s, compared to about one quarter of workers today. Importantly, this increase in licensing is for the most part not a consequence of the swelling service sector, replete with licensed physicians, lawyers, and teachers. Rather, the bulk of growth in licensing has resulted from the extension of licensing to previously unlicensed occupations.

There are a few reasons to view this trend with dismay. First, the economic costs stemming from licensing are large: by one estimate, licensing is associated with 2.8 million fewer jobs. Second, much of the impetus for licensing has come from parties with a financial interest in excluding others from their field and keeping prices high. Because the regulatory costs are dispersed across a broad set of difficult-to-mobilize individuals, the political logic often favors licensing proponents, even in the absence of a compelling justification.

Moreover, even in cases in which most would agree that licensing would be justified, its requirements are often overly burdensome or poorly targeted to public health and safety concerns. Finally, many jurisdictions do not have rigorous procedures in place to evaluate existing licensure and proposals for new licensure.

And Reason magazine's Hit & Run blog has a story about a possible solution from Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah.

A Supreme Court in 2014 overturned a North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners ban on non-dentists offering teeth whitening services. The ruling opened the door to lawsuits against state-level licensing boards that behave like private-sector monopolies by enforcing anti-competitive rules against their very own potential competitors. In that case, the court ruled licensing boards are in violation of federal antitrust laws if they engage in openly anti-competitive practices—potentially putting state boards on the hook for huge payouts—but the ruling also created significant questions, including how states could bring their licensing boards to heel and secure immunity from similar lawsuits.

Sen. Lee has introduced legislation would give states two paths to immunity. The first by bringing state licensing boards under direct supervision by the legislative and executive branches. The second by requiring states to show why a certain licensing requirement is necessary to protect public health and safety.

Lee's "Restoring Board Immunity Act" creates a limited, conditional exemption shielding licensing boards from federal antitrust lawsuits, but only for states that change how their licensing boards operate and how courts handle disputes between those boards and individuals subjected to their rules.

States would have to pass legislation requiring lawmakers to conduct comprehensive reviews of their licensing boards every five years. Those would include a cost/benefit analysis and an assessment of any new licensing rules created since the last review.

States unwilling or unable to pass major reform could still receive immunity from anti-trust rules by creating a statutory affirmative defense placing the burden of proof in license enforcement actions on the state. A licensing board would have to prove why enforcement is necessary.

In other words, in order for licensing boards not to get their butts sued off, states would have to control them a lot more than they do now.

I'm encouraged by the attention the problem is getting, but not overly optimistic. Back in 2013, Indiana was praised for "taking the lead" on licensing reform" by considering "a new bill that would cause license requirements for certain professions to automatically expire every five years unless members of that profession can provide a convincing reason why the requirement should remain in place."  Perhaps you've heard about all the professions about to get out from under the yoke of licensing in Indiana. Yeah, me, neither.

ELSEWHERE IN THE NEWS

Our national security is in the very best of hands: That time the CIA tried to train cats to be spies. "Not only did they walk off the job when they got hungry but they couldn't be let loose untrained because they often would just wander off. It also turns out they weren't the best listeners either and had a bit of cattitude." Well, duh.

How government wrecked the gas can. And it was only one in a long line of bumbling interferences:  "Soap doesn't work. Toilets don't flush. Clothes washers don't clean. Light bulbs don't illuminate. Refrigerators break too soon. Paint discolors. Lawnmowers have to be hacked. It's all caused by idiotic government regulations that are wrecking our lives one consumer product at a time, all in ways we hardly notice. It's like the barbarian invasions that wrecked Rome, taking away the gains we've made in bettering our lives. It's the bureaucrats' way of reminding market producers and consumers who is in charge."

Engineers at a recent campus workshop on advanced manufacturing techniques were selfishly unhappy when they were diverted from their silly practical problems to deal with a serious workshop on “implicit bias, stereotypes, microinsults, microaggressions, [and] Title IX” in the workplace.

The title alone tells you everything you need to know about Washington these days: President Chaos and the Keystone Kongress.

In other words, it wouldn't make a very good Syfy channel movie: Detecting alien life will likely be a protracted process, not a Eureka moment. "Scientific discovery most often comes through incremental progress rather than epiphanies, and there's no reason to suggest discovering alien intelligence will be different."

I'm just the reporter here — you decide what it means: The acceptance of polygamy is on the increase in the United States: "Polygamy, a practice that President James Garfield once said 'offends the moral sense,' is now seen by 17% of Americans as 'morally acceptable,' up from 14% in 2016 and the highest rate on record dating back to 2003."

No longer exactly the American dream? Home ownership rates nationally peaked in 2007 at 73%. Today, they've plummeted to 63%, a dramatic shift involving many billions of dollars. This has occurred in all regions and income groups across the country.

I see these "walking while texting" morons more and more every day: Honolulu targets "smartphone zombies" with crosswalk ban. "Smartphone zombies" — good name for them.

The planet so tough it doesn't have to take crap from anybody: Sun!? Ha! I spit on your gravitational pull! Jupiter is so big it doesn't actually orbit the sun.

It's called "national security," stupid: 6 ridiculous arguments in favor of transgender soldiers.

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