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This week Carolina Journal reported on an important ruling against an occupational license in Texas. State leaders should take note.

As CJ reported:

The Texas case involved eyebrow threading. Since 2011, Texas has required those practicing eyebrow threading, which involves removing eyebrow hairs by using cotton thread, to get a cosmetology license. Would-be eyebrow threaders had to complete 750 hours of training. By the state’s own admission, at least 320 hours of that time had nothing to do with eyebrow threading.

The Texas court ruled that the requirements violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution.

The CJ report, which in the interest of full disclosure interviewed me, discussed the similarity between Texas requiring licenses for eyebrow threading and North Carolina (and other states) requiring licenses for hair braiding.

There are lawsuits in several states over licensing schemes for African hair braiding now. It seems a matter of time before North Carolina joins them. Utah’s was already destroyed in court. In the federal judge’s decision,

Utah’s cosmetology/barbering licensing scheme is so disconnected from the practice of African hairbraiding, much less from whatever minimal threats to public health and safety are connected to braiding, that to premise [the petitioner Jestina Clayton]’s right to earn a living by braiding hair on that scheme is wholly irrational and a violation of her constitutionally protected rights.

As I wrote last year,

Could it be that by failing to uphold what the North Carolina Constitution guarantees in Article 1, Section 1 — the right of all persons to "the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor" — North Carolina’s leaders have positioned the state for as embarrassing a court ruling as the one handed down in Utah?

My recent report on "Voluntary Certification: An economically robust, freedom-minded reform of occupational licensing" opened with four very recent government recognitions of problems with North Carolina’s aggressive approach to occupational licensing:

  • In March 2015, Gov. Pat McCrory’s North Carolina Government Efficiency and Reform (NC GEAR) program recommended "immediate elimination of occupational licensing requirements that do not provide value to North Carolina citizens."
  • In February 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the North Carolina State Board of Dental Examiners had violated federal antitrust laws by forbidding service providers without dental licenses from offering teeth- whitening services.
  • In December 2014, the Program Evaluation Division (PED) of the North Carolina General Assembly identified 55 occupational licensing agencies in the state. PED found insufficient oversight of the agencies and recommended the legislature review 12 agencies’ authority to issue licenses and consolidate 10 agencies with others.
  • In August 2014, the State Auditor identified 57 boards and found their oversight activities ineffective, their performance unmeasured, and even that the official listing of boards was incomplete.

Another major governmental recognition of problems with occupational licensing — the fifth in a year’s time — is a paper jointly produced by the U.S. Department of the Treasury Office of Economic Policy, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the U.S. Department of Labor. It urged, among other things, that licensing requirements be limited "to those that address legitimate public health and safety concerns" and for "comprehensive cost-benefit assessments of licensing laws to reduce the number of unnecessary or overly-restrictive licenses."

The John Locke Foundation’s First in Freedom Index gauging the climate for freedom in each of the 50 states found that North Carolina’s aggressive occupational licensing regime was a significant impediment to regulatory freedom here.

My voluntary certification report recommended transitioning most jobs currently under state regulation away from licensure and into voluntary private certification. The chart below is from that report and compares the two approaches (click on the chart for the full size):

Transitioning most jobs under state licensure into voluntary private certification would, I wrote, "inject a great amount of freedom and choice into the market for service professionals and into the labor market as well. It would pay dividends in terms of job creation and help lift low-income individuals and neighborhoods."

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