Arizona has made strides to combat what have been described as onerous burdens on low-income workers, but the state continues to have a poor ranking nationally, according to a senior research fellow at Arizona State University.
Critics across the United States on both sides of the political divide want states to significantly lighten occupational-licensing regulations.
In Arizona, workers who want to earn a living in more than 60 low- and moderate-income occupations need to be licensed, according to a survey by the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Virginia-based organization at the vanguard of the campaign to reduce licensing regulations.
Occupations covered by licensing in the state include residential painters, alarm installers, funeral attendants, makeup artists, door repairers and floor sanders.
A key problem is that some aspiring small business people need to pay substantial fees and spend a lot of time training for tasks they will never carry out, according to Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University.
Slivinski cited the example of African hair braiding. Those wanting to start a hair-braiding business must receive a license from the Board of Cosmetology, which requires hundreds of hours of training that have nothing to do with their work, Slivinski told Arizona Business Daily.
"It is disproportionate to the overall public good," he said. "These licensing requirements were originally intended to protect public health and safety but have morphed into protection of those already in a particular industry who want to keep out new people."
Gov. Doug Ducey in April signed into law the Right to Earn a Living Act, which allows individuals to sue and demand a review if they believe it goes beyond public health and safety requirements.
Nevertheless, Slivinski said Arizona continues to have a "low ranking" when it comes to what he thinks are burdensome regulations, particularly for those with a lower income. He said the best data comes from the Institute for Justice.
"That survey focused on professions that are generally lower income, and the variations at that end of the spectrum, which are the most burdensome," Slivinski said. The survey did not look at the high end, including doctors and lawyers, which are professions where licensing will persist.
"The most onerous area at the bottom end, for example, landscape gardeners, nail salons, barber shops," he added.
Among the requirements needed, which vary from occupation to occupation, are bachelor degrees, apprenticeships and credited hours.
But health and safety outcomes are the same in the states that have light and heavy licensing restrictions, Slivinski said. There is no real impact on health and safety, but tough licensing rules keep out new business, he added.
The push for more licensing is not coming from those who want to get into a particular field but from nonprofts and organizations representing those in the occupations, such as a society of barbers, Slivinski said.
"They want to pull up the ladder on others," he said.