The COVID-19 pandemic, and the government’s disastrous response which has put the brakes on what was likely the greatest economy the world has ever known, has wreaked havoc around the world and across the United States. Texas has not been spared. Now more than ever, Texas needs to pull out all the stops to reopen the economy and let people get back to work. Conveniently, the Texas Legislature is now in session and fully empowered to do just that.
For a state that charts its own path and refuses to be bossed around, Texas has failed at keeping the marketplace open and free for those wanting to earn an honest living. Ranking among the top five most regulated states in the nation, Texas has over 263,000 regulatory restrictions currently in place.
Considering the occupations regulated by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), it may appear that threats to your personal safety come in very nondescript and unassuming ways. But fear not, the government will protect you! If the government didn’t tell us, how else would we know our lives are endangered by the dietitian, hearing aid fitter, or the tow truck driver?
Evidently, the State of Texas assumes services provided through these occupations present enough of a risk to the general public to necessitate their licensing and regulation. But more often than not, the argument of public safety is merely used to enact regulations where none are necessary, to the benefit of entrenched businesses and at the expense of customers and newcomers to the market.
Currently the TDLR maintains the licensing and regulation of 43 occupations including athletic trainers, behavior analysts, midwives, orthodontists, electricians, massage therapists, mold assessors and speech pathologists, and the list keeps on growing!
Many of the occupations that are regulated by the TDLR are ones in which entrepreneurs lead the way. Hairstylists, hair braiders, barbers, cosmetologists, and journeyman such as electricians, roofers, and plumbers (to name just a few) are unfairly burdened with regulatory fees, leaving them with less money to take home. Licensing fees are only one aspect of the problem: continuing education requirements pose another costly burden for many in these industries. This unnecessary regulation creates a cost-prohibitive barrier to many who want to work these jobs.
The regulation of these occupations typically includes completion of an approved course of instruction, initial application fees for licensing, completion of annual or biennial continuing education hours, background checks, renewal fees, and fines or other penalties if this process is not followed.
The background check requirement at one time presented a significant barrier to entry for many individuals with a minor criminal history, preventing them from working in licensed occupations. However, in 2019, HB 1342 rolled back many of these restrictions, limiting only those who have been convicted of a felony, violent sexual misconduct, and prostitution from obtaining a permit or license. This move allows non-violent offenders to apply for licensed jobs, enabling them to earn a living and thereby decreasing their chances of recidivism.
Unfortunately, even though advancements were previously made to decrease barriers to entry for certain individuals, Texas legislators aren’t done imposing new regulations. HB 1072, filed this session, would seek to make Lactation Consulting a regulated occupation. This is nonsense.
HB 1072 would establish a board of directors who in turn would set the minimum standards to become a licensed lactation consultant, establish required course work for initial licensing and required continuing education credits, as well as establish preliminary and renewal license fees. This bill would create a criminal offense, requiring a fine of not more than $500 per offense, for anyone who engages in work as a lactation consultant without a permit. Never mind that people are currently and safely doing this job and providing a service to new moms that is greatly needed!
The grand total collected by the State of Texas in licenses, fees, fines, and penalties in 2020 was a whopping $2.57 billion dollars, according to the Comptroller’s Biennial Revenue Estimate. It is the greatest source of non-tax revenue for the State. One may be forgiven for wondering if occupational licensure isn’t so much about public safety as it is about increasing revenues to the state without explicitly raising taxes.
It’s time Texas loosens up a bit. Instead of to fund the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which includes 555 full-time positions (with great tax-payer funded benefit packages by the way) it’s time to let entrepreneurs and journeymen keep more of their hard-earned income so they can afford to provide a better life for themselves and their families.
It’s also time to say enough to the over-regulation of occupations that does little more than act as a revenue source for the State. Texas, we are better than this!
Adults should be free to engage in the willing exchange of goods and services unfettered by the long regulatory arm of the state. Many of the concerns prompting the regulations in the first place resolve themselves in an open and free market. Let the people decide.
This session we encourage legislators to strengthen Texas’ economy by passing legislation that encourages more freedom in the marketplace. This means not adding regulations that unnecessarily burden certain occupations and reviewing current regulations with an eye toward removing as much regulation as possible.
New regulations that stifle individual liberty and free markets should be opposed and defeated. Texas is a great place to live and work. By reducing regulations and injecting more freedom in the marketplace, the 87th Legislature can make it even better!
Rebecca Willis is a policy analyst with Texas Action and a graduate student at Liberty University pursuing a Master of Public Administration – Law and Public Policy degree. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Business from Concordia University-Austin and has also earned the SHRM-CP Human Resources certification. She most recently completed an internship at Texas Public Policy Foundation where she worked on Energy and Environmental policies.