Shirley's Old Time Barbershop (copy)

The some of the tools of the barbering trade share shelf space inside Shirley's Old Time Barbershop in Montello, Wis., Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2018. 

At Americans for Prosperity, we believe in removing barriers so that every American can achieve their full potential — especially when those barriers make no sense.

Take, for example, Wisconsin’s occupational licensing laws.

If you want to become a shampooer, you need to complete 233 days of education and experience, pass two exams and pay $391 in fees .

Just down Lake Michigan, in Indiana, you don’t need a government license.

Do we really need more stringent requirements than our neighbors? Do Hoosiers have hair that is harder to shampoo than Wisconsinites?

Looking at it the other way — is it possible that laws in Indiana are too lax? If that were the case, we might be hearing more about an outbreak of split ends in Indiana, but we aren’t. It seems that those who live in other states that work in professions we license here in Wisconsin are operating just fine — indicating that ours laws are the ones that are excessive.

There’s no reason for lawmakers in Madison to impose requirements that serve no useful purpose and accomplish little except to incentivize people to look elsewhere for opportunity.

Contrary to a recent op-ed by state Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, we at AFP do not believe all credentialing and training are unnecessary, but we do believe that these requirements have to make sense and be effective.

Does it make sense for Wisconsin to require licenses for several occupations that remain unlicensed in most other states — for example, animal trainers and bartenders — especially when professionals in those states are performing just fine?

Does it also make sense for lower-risk professions to have much more stringent requirements than higher-risk ones? For example, cosmetologists in our state have to go through 10 times more training than emergency medical technicians.

And then there was the example of Green Bay-based barber Albert E. Walker. He had been cutting hair for almost two decades, often for members of the Green Bay Packers. The players trusted him to make them camera-ready for high-profile games. Two years ago, he almost had to close his shop due to educational licensing requirements — he possibly would have had to pay $20,000 in tuition. Thankfully, we helped pass laws to remove these obstacles for barbers. Walker said it was “insulting” to have his level of experience and skill and not be able to run his own shop.

When it comes to the effectiveness of licensing laws to ensure quality and safety standards, there is legitimate reason to pause. According to an Obama administration study, “most research does not find that licensing improves quality or public health and safety.”

The reason we care so much about improving government licensing laws is that the implications aren’t merely academic. These laws impose real costs on Wisconsinites — especially those seeking lower income jobs. According to the Institute for Justice, licensing laws cost our state 37,000 jobs and the state’s economy as much as $3.7 billion a year.

For 42 low- and moderate-income occupations, our state requires an average of 214 days of education and experience, passing one exam and paying $259 in fees. Barbers, cosmetologists, massage therapists, pipelayers, security guards, veterinary technologists and others face steep fines for operating in Wisconsin without a license. These prerequisites present barriers to entry for those least able to afford them.

Simply put, it doesn’t make sense to accept policies that aren’t working and create unneeded obstacles for the most vulnerable.

So long as these barriers exist in Wisconsin, we will work with our partners to eliminate them. It’s why we will continue uniting with those in the state Legislature to reform our occupational licensing laws. We invite anyone who wants to expand opportunity for all to join us.

Eric Bott is state director of Americans for Prosperity-Wisconsin.

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