Not Every Tennessean Has the Right to Earn a Living…Yet
BY JUSTIN OWEN
A recent study by our friends at the Institute for Justice found that unnecessary licensing red tape keeps 46,068 Tennesseans out of work.
State licensing boards have too much authority in Tennessee. With the passage of a rule, they can wipe out an entire group of Tennesseans’ ability to earn an honest living. These boards often pass restrictions to entry into their profession under the guise of protecting health and safety. But what if it’s really more about protecting the fiefdom they have created for their industry? Unfortunately, if someone wants to challenge whether a licensing board’s actions protect public safety or just the paychecks of a few lucky insiders, they bear an almost insurmountable barrier.
People can already challenge licensing boards’ actions in court, but when they do, they must disprove any conceivable reason that the board had to pass such a rule or regulation. If a licensing board is keeping someone out of a job, it should bear the burden of proving the necessity of its actions.
Beacon proposes expanding the existing Right to Earn a Living Act by requiring licensing boards to state the public health and safety rationale for their actions. First, boards should have to articulate the reason for their rules and regulations upfront. And if it doesn’t pass the smell test and someone challenges that action in court, the government—not the person being kept out of a job—should have to affirmatively prove to the court that its rule or regulation is necessary to protect public health and safety.
This isn’t just an exercise in legal jargon. It affects real-life Tennesseans. A recent study by our friends at the Institute for Justice found that unnecessary licensing red tape keeps 46,068 Tennesseans out of work. This translates into an economic loss of more than $4.5 billion.
Fortunately, Tennessee is at least heading in the right direction to rectify this affront to economic liberty. Tennessee was the first state to pass the Right to Earn a Living Act requiring legislative review of licensing laws, rules, and regulations. And after a couple of lawsuits filed by Beacon, legislators repealed two licensing laws entirely. Now those wanting to shampoo hair and conduct animal massage therapy can do so without unnecessary government interference.
But there are still 110 licensing laws on the books, and countless more rules and regulations created by unaccountable licensing boards that keep people out of good jobs. Much of this red tape doesn’t need to exist, and improving the existing Right to Earn a Living Act would go a long way to expanding job opportunities for thousands of low-income Tennesseans.