Why Do Roofers, Plant Growers, Floor Sanders Need a State License, Policy Center Asks

It takes extra steps and extra money to install roof shingles, sell fruit plants and refinish woodwork in Michigan, which licenses those workers.

Ditto for surveyors and property managers. In some cases, coursework and an exam are required.

Jarrett Skorup cites those examples and lots of others in an analysis at Michigan Capitol Confidential, a news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "More than 20 percent of Michigan workers are required to have a license," notes the center, a nonpartisan research institute in Midland that advocates free-market approaches. 

Its post, citing a national study, is headlined "The Most Bizarre Licenses in Michigan." Required training, tests and license fees "can be overwhelming for many people," it says. "Experts say the growth of such protectionist licensure regimes into so many professions has led to fewer opportunities for young people."

The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in Lansing has "licensing records for almost 300,000 professions," its website says. Though it lists just 15 "occupational professions" that are licensed, other nonprofessional jobs also are regulated.   

As of Nov. 1, agency data shows, Michigan has 863 licensed property and construction surveyors, 597 licensed landscape architects, 225 foresters and 174 hearing aid salespeople.

"Michigan requires licenses for hundreds of businesses and occupations," Skorup writes. Six decades ago, he notes, only about 5 percent of Michigan workers had to "get special government permission in order to hold a job."

Most of the expansion in licensing is for middle- and low-income workers. ...

Some occupations are licensed in every state and have been for decades. For example, all 50 states license doctors, dentists, barbers, architects, nurses, optometrists, pharmacists and social workers.

But according to a national database of state licensing laws put together by the Goldwater Institute, there are many areas in which Michigan stands nearly alone in requiring a government license to work. . . . Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Kentucky all have lower licensing restrictions than Michigan.

These are among job categories requiring what Skorup calls "a government permission slip:"

  • Animal control officer: Just six other states license this job. Michugan requires 100 hours of training, more than anywhere else.
  • Forester: Very few states license those who manage public and private woodlands, inventory trees, appraise the timber's worth and negotiate sales contracts.
  • Court reporter: The state mandates a high school diploma, training workshop, test passage and a $65 license. Just 12 other states have this type of license.
  • Painter: "If you want to earn a living repainting old barns, the state forces you to pay $295 in fees, pass a test and take 60 hours of pre-licensure courses. . . . The number of states requiring a license has gone from 10 to 28 in the past few years, but none of Michigan’s neighboring states requires this license."
  • Plant grower: "A license is required to sell biennials, small fruit plants, asparagus or rhubarb roots." Fees exceed $150 in fees.
  • Roofer: "You don't need a license to lay shingles in Ohio, Indiana or Wisconsin. But Michigan joins a minority of states in requiring it. Would-be roofers need 60 hours of courses, must pay nearly $300 in fees and pass a test."
  • Property manager: "If you hire someone to oversee your rental property, the state requires three years of experience, 90 hours of training, an exam and hundreds of dollars in fees." Only three other states license this job.
  • Siding and gutters: Though most states don't mandate licensing, Michigan requires hundreds of dollars in fees, 60 hours of courses an exam and "good moral character."
  • Landscape architect: Since 2009, Michigan forces landscape architects to hold a license. A House bill, would repeal this license.
  • Floor sander: "If a Michigander wants to lay carpet or hang drywall, no license is needed. But finishing contractors – including those engaged in scraping and sanding – are forced to be licensed. Michigan is one of only nine states to require this license."

The writer, who's also the author of a 39-page Mackinac Center occupational licensing report called "This Isn't Working," quotes second-term state Rep. Brandt Iden, R-Kalamazoo. The House Regulatory Reform Committee, which he chairs, "has passed several bills that roll back occupational regulations," the new article says.

"The reality is there are a lot of unnecessary regulations surrounding certain licensure,” Iden said. "I believe it is incumbent upon the Legislature to take a hard look at what is necessary for citizen safety versus what is just burdensome and excess red tape. . . .

"I am committed to reviewing these regulations to try and find a solution which will help grow our economy for all Michigan citizens."

Read more:  Capitol Confidential

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