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Time to ease up on licensing guidelines

May 17, 2012
Marshall Independent

There's not a politician in Minnesota today who didn't jump on the jobs bandwagon this past session and stress the need to create more of them in the state.

Republicans and Democrats alike promoted jobs from Day 1 of the 2012 session; some just have different ways of reaching their goals. Republicans wanted to ease taxes on businesses to keep them grounded in Minnesota, to attract new ones to Minnesota and to better their chances of hiring people who live in Minnesota. And our Democratic governor couldn't talk about a new Vikings stadium without reminding everyone that building said stadium will add some 3,000 construction jobs to the landscape.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. We get it.

We can't argue the fact that construction of a new stadium will mean thousands of jobs for Minnesotans, but the same man who built his stadium platform around job creation turned around and dealt the GOP, and perhaps the war on unemployment, a sizeable setback when he vetoed their scaled-back tax bill earlier this week, putting the kibosh on potential tax relief for businesses.

So how did the Legislature fare in boosting jobs in Minnesota in the 2012 session? Depends on your perspective. If you're a Republican, not very well at all. If you're a Democrat - and a stadium supporter - you can almost smell the roses.

Because there wasn't a whirlwind of job-creation success in 2012 outside of the new stadium (which we could partially end up on the hook for in the future if expanded gambling doesn't pay off), jobs, once again, will be a common theme when the 2013 session rolls around.

But there's another layer to the jobs onion: the red tape involved with government-imposed "occupational licensing" guidelines.

Of the 102 occupations in Minnesota studied in a newly-released National Occupational Licensing report titled "License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing," 36 of them are licensed, and Minnesota has the 24th most burdensome licensing laws in the U.S. The report said potential licensees can expect, on average, to pay $164 in fees, lose nearly 300 days to education and experience requirements, and take a pair of exams.

At least one exam is required for 79 of the occupations.

And it's not just in Minnesota. Did you know that 10 states require four months or more of training for manicurists? Did you know that 66 occupations face higher licensure burdens than prospective EMTs do? And yes, that's counting cosmetologists and manicurists.

The report also says for some occupations, Minnesota's laws are among the most burdensome in the U.S. Want to install fire and security alarms? Expect three years of education for each in Minnesota, compared to a national average of 486 days and 535 days, respectively. Animal trainers, specifically horse trainers, face the second most stringent requirements among the 20 states that license the occupation - two years versus a national average of about three months. Barbers, yes barbers, face above average barriers, too - 700 days compared to a national average of 416 days of training prior to licensure.

Many of our legislators have committed themselves to help businesses, either by lobbying to get rid of some tax burdens or by streamlining the permitting process, both noble ventures. Apparently, they have more work cut out for them, and while it's good they're looking out for businesses large and small, they also, in the future, need to put some focus on the potential workers themselves and make it easier for them to start earning a good paycheck. One way to do that would be to address these absurd licensing hurdles.

Somehow, through all this, Minnesota continues to have a decent unemployment rate, at least compared to the rest of the nation, but it could be better. It should be better.



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