According to a 2012 report from the Arlington County-based Institute for Justice,
Virginia is the 11th most broadly and onerously licensed state. It has the eighth most burdensome licensing laws, requiring aspiring practitioners to pay $153 in fees, lose 462 days — more than 15 months — to education and experience and take one exam. Sixteen of the 46 low- to moderate-income occupations Virginia licenses are commercial construction contractors and account for much of the state’s ranking.
A 2015 study from the liberal Brookings Institution notes that more than 20 percent of Virginia jobs require either licenses or certifications by the state (table, page 9, PDF).
A recent article on IJ’s web site by Nick Sibilla offers vivid examples of some of the absurd licensing requirements in Virginia:
Carrying a badge as an armed “special conservator of the peace” requires 40 hours of training in Virginia. But getting a license to cut someone’s hair takes 1,500 hours of training—almost 40 times as many hours. Welcome to the absurd world of occupational regulations.
Currently, Virginia law lets private citizens become SCOPs, which have the authority to arrest people and even carry a badge and a gun. SCOPs can also identify themselves as “police” and use the Commonwealth seal on their badges and uniforms. A bill passed by the legislature would raise the minimum amount of training to 130 hours for armed SCOPs.
Yet even with this increase, many far less dangerous occupations have to endure a greater regulatory burden. Licenses for nail technicians, also known as manicurists, require 150 hours of experience. Barbers and cosmetologists have to complete at least 1,500 hours of training before they can work. Midwives need two years of training, even though that occupation isn’t licensed in neighboring Maryland and North Carolina. Virginia forces many aspiring construction contractors to lose more than two years to experience before they can obtain their licenses. Yet Maryland and Kentucky do not license several of these contractor occupations, like drywall installers and painters.
Should it really require more training to wield nail clippers and hand lotion than a gun and a badge?
Perhaps the lesson here is that there are fewer rent seekers in law enforcement than in cosmetology. And perhaps, when you think about it, that’s a good thing.
Whatever the case, the General Assembly should look seriously at occupational licensing requirements and reform or remove the more ridiculous rules that burden citizens’ attempts to make a living.