State-enforced occupational licensure requirements are often defended as safeguards for public safety. In Louisiana, this argument has been effectively deployed to push back against any attempts to reform the system. However, it’s unclear if Louisiana’s expansive system of occupational licensure actually improves public health and safety outcomes.
Nationally, there’s very little evidence to support the idea that all or even most occupational licensure does anything to improve public safety. Studies have shown that some regulations may actually increase costs so much that people seek out less safe alternatives to professional licensed help.
Undoubtedly, there may be some genuine public safety arguments to be made for licensing some occupations in Louisiana. Unfortunately, sound justification and reasoning aren’t a requirement for such burdensome regulations. Louisiana’s occupational licenses are enacted without sunrise reviews to ensure new licenses serve a legitimate public safety interest. Likewise, the state currently has no sunset reviews to ensure licenses actually improved public safety outcomes since they were enacted.
Licensure in Louisiana is often a patchwork of arbitrary, anti-competitive restrictions. This has led to some strange and needlessly burdensome restrictions that serve no serious public safety interest. For example, in Louisiana, an interior designer needs at least 6 years of training and education while an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) only needs about 36 days of training. Louisiana requires 2 years of experience to get a license to dig water wells while Pharmacy Technicians only need 15 weeks of training.
Sadly, these are just a few of the countless examples of the burdensome requirements that surround occupational licensure in Louisiana. Furthermore, overburdensome occupational licensing tends to arbitrarily lock people out of legitimate work opportunities. This is particularly true for the formerly incarcerated trying to reenter society. Studies show that states with higher occupational licensure requirements tend to have higher recidivism rates. So, in some cases, occupational licensing hurts public safety instead of strengthening it.
While it is clear that many of the occupational licensing requirements in Louisiana do not impact public safety, the real impact they have is protecting established businesses. It should come as no surprise that Louisiana consistently ranks in the bottom half of the country for entrepreneurial activity due in part to our overburdensome licensing requirements. Louisiana needs to take a good hard look at what overbearing occupational licensing has done to stop economic mobility and job growth for people all across the Pelican State.