Last year, Texas was ranked with the 17th highest burden occupational licensing imposes on the workforce. A full one-third of low-income occupations in Texas are licensed.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation and Right on Crime have long alerted policymakers to the inherent issues with overusing occupational licensing. This practice inhibits economic growth, restricts employment, and can serve as a form of economic protectionism.

In fact, studies have pointed to billions in losses each year attributable to occupational licensing and the lower rates of employment in licensed professions as compared to unlicensed professions.

Occupational licensing can and does serve a public purpose-specifically, when there is an information imbalance or public safety issue that occupational licensing can protect against. 

But when we’ve begun licensing hair shampooers and equine teeth floaters, we have to ask ourselves what purpose our occupational licensing system serves: protecting the public or protecting established industries?

Another important question that should be put to each occupational licensing scheme is whether restrictions on applicants with criminal histories play a role in protecting public safety. An occupational license for an ex-offender should take into consideration whether the offense on the applicant’s record is related to the profession or the situations in which the profession would lead the applicant. 

A recent article from Austin-American Statesman exemplifies the importance of stepping away from overly restrictive occupational license.

A security alarm installer, Adam Waters, recently moved to Texas from North Carolina. He was apparently so skilled at his profession (not to mention his 25 years of experience) that he worked on the North Carolina Governor’s home, the home of a mayor, and even some buildings on local air force bases.

But Texas denied him a license to install alarms in our state. The reason given was that he received deferred adjudication after failing to pull over in Lee County. (He claims he didn’t hear or see the police officers.)

Mr. Waters clearly messed up. He shouldn’t have been speeding and he shouldn’t have failed to pull over immediately. No one would condone his actions.

But does this incident make him such a risk that he’s unable to obtain a license to install security systems in Texas? Does this one incident eviscerate 25 years of experience in his occupation? Did the licensing agency here in Texas check and see if he had ever incurred any complaints in relation to his work in those 25 years? Is a Texas agency that doles out occupational licenses a better judge of character than the Governor of North Carolina?

Or have we gone just a bit too far with occupational licensing in Texas?