MOORLACH UPDATE — Earning a Living — November 30, 2017

It’s nice to receive an early Christmas present with a kind mention of a bill, SB 247, I attempted to run through the Legislature this year, which failed to get out of the Senate’s Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee (see I hope to work on a similar, but less ambitious, bill next year.

This is not the first time someone has taken the time to acknowledge this effort (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Pursuing Reforms — August 11, 2017).

The piece below is in the OC Register and the writer of this unsolicited Christmas gift comes with an impressive curriculum vitae (see

BONUS: You are cordially invited to our Annual Christmas Open House on December 6th, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at 940 South Coast Drive, Costa Mesa, Suite 185. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — Happy Thanksgiving— November 22, 2017.

To RSVP, contact Deborah Sandoval at Deborah.Sandoval or 714-662-0550. Dress is Christmas casual, which means if you wear a Reyn Spooner Christmas shirt, you’ll be provided with extra refreshments.

DOUBLE BONUS: I’m doing a weekly podcast on various topics, for a listen to the building collection, go to


Too many earning a license when they could be earning a living

By JENNIFER MCDONALD | Orange County Register

California makes it harder for lower-income workers to get a job than any other state in the nation. Thanks to occupational licensing laws, one out of every five California workers needs a government permission slip to earn a living.

According to a new report from the Institute for Justice, California’s heavy-handed occupational licensing laws guard entry into jobs that offer upward mobility to those of modest means. These jobs include everything from landscape contractors to shampooers to animal trainers. California licenses 76 of the 102 lower-income occupations studied in the report — more than every state but Louisiana and Washington. The Golden State also has some of the heaviest burdens in the country for workers to become licensed, requiring, on average, $486 in fees, more than two years of education and experience, and two exams. In other words, California’s licensing laws force people to waste their time and money earning a license when they could be earning a living.

Research provides little to no evidence that licensing does what it is supposed to do: raise the quality of services and protect consumers. For example, a tree trimmer needs four years of experience before they can get a license to start their own tree-trimming business in California. Only six other states license that occupation, and California’s experience requirement is more than double the average required by other states. That tree trimmers are unlicensed by the majority of states suggests they can safely practice without a state license.

Instead, licensing laws often protect those who already have licenses from competition, keeping newcomers out and prices high. By artificially increasing the price of services, licensing acts as a “hidden tax” that costs the average California household $1,133 per year, according to one estimate by the Heritage Foundation.

Moreover, burdensome licensing laws block those with criminal records from finding work, which makes it even harder for otherwise qualified former offenders to reenter society. Earlier this fall, approximately 4,000 state prison inmates helped battle destructive wildfires in Northern California. Despite receiving on-the-job training and literal trial-by-fire, most of those inmates can’t become firefighters after they’ve served their time. In California, firefighters must obtain an emergency medical technician license — a credential convicted felons are typically disqualified from obtaining. Notably, both the Council of Economic Advisors under the Obama Administration and California’s nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission have called for new protections for people with criminal records against licensing boards, since research suggests those barriers to employment can increase the likelihood of reoffending.

The Legislature must take action to repeal harmful occupational licenses and — if absolutely necessary — replace them with less burdensome regulatory alternatives such as voluntary private certification. Earlier this year, state Sen. John Moorlach sponsored a bill that would have repealed licenses for locksmiths, upholsterers, makeup artists, barbers and hearing aid dispensers, eased licensing requirements for tree trimmers and landscapers, and banned municipalities from enacting new licenses or licensing fees. Unfortunately, thanks to the influence of entrenched licensed interests in Sacramento, the bill never even made it to the floor of the senate for a vote.

But reform is absolutely necessary. Occupational licensing creates needless roadblocks for people hoping to break into new occupations, change careers, or build new businesses. The Legislature should repeal unnecessary licenses, rein in anticompetitive licensing boards and regulations, and curtail license denials based on irrelevant or long-past criminal records.

Earlier this year, Mississippi created a commission that will ensure licensing boards use the least restrictive regulation necessary to protect consumers and promote competition. Kentucky adopted a law that prohibits licensing boards from automatically denying licensing applicants due to their criminal history, instead requiring boards to prove a direct relationship between a past conviction and a particular license. California should follow in these states’ footsteps and adopt meaningful occupational licensing reform.

Jennifer McDonald is a research analyst at the Institute for Justice and co-author of License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing (2nd edition).

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