For many years the Institute for Justice has brought lawsuits to open up occupations to people who want to work, but are denied the opportunity by complicated, expensive licensing requirements. One of their famous victories was a case that allowed African American women to braid hair without paying large fees and spending hours in classrooms to qualify as cosmetologists in the District of Columbia.

IJ has just released a survey of the occupational licensing laws in the 50 states. It omitted high level professional licensing, such as architects, attorneys and CPAs, and focused on occupations that ordinary working people can engage in. Here's what it found for Vermont:

"Vermont is the 44th most broadly and onerously licensed state. This ranking is primarily because Vermont licenses only 27 of the 102 low- to moderate-income occupations studied. On average, it requires these aspiring practitioners to pay $174 in fees, lose 402 days to education and experience and take two exams. These requirements make for the ninth most burdensome licensing laws."

"The most burdensome requirements are for fire and security alarm installers. These aspiring workers lose nearly five-and-a-half years to experience while the average across the 34 states that license these occupations is less than a year and a half. Aspiring cosmetologists across the country pay average fees of $142, but Vermont charges $235 in fees. As one of only seven states that license entry-level dental assistants, Vermont charges the highest fees of $110; the average in other states is $50." (See more at http://licensetowork.ij.org)

If we want to open up more job opportunities for Vermonters, maybe our Legislature ought to back off on the burdensome licensing requirements that do more to stifle competition than to protect the public.

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