Rep. Bill Callegari has a solution to control the increasing number of Texas workers that must obtain a license from the government do their job. Texas regulates 514 types of occupations – even sports referees – representing the jobs held by nearly 2.7 million Texans, or nearly one-third of the state workforce. That is more than the 28 percent of workers nationally that are subject to regulation. Moreover, it is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail to violate any occupational rule.

Callegari’s HB 1543 builds on the Government Reform Committee’s interim study. First, the Sunset Advisory Commission would be instructed, as part of its process of reviewing state agencies, to examine whether the licensing of an occupation by that agency remains necessary. Among the factors that the legislation instructs the commission to consider is whether the goals of regulating occupations currently under its purview could be achieved through market forces or private certification programs.

Second, the sunrise portion of the legislation would allow a person to request that the commission study the necessity to license a new occupation when legislation is introduced. Any individual could submit the proposed legislation to the commission for a review, which would be completed by the next legislative session. Washington, Minnesota, and Maine have stronger sunrise provisions that actually require new licensing proposals to be submitted for review.

HB 1543 would chip away at licensing excesses. A University of Minnesota study of occupational licensing found that “occupational licensing reduces employment growth in states that are licensed relative to those that are not regulated.” For example, states that have licensed dietitians and nutritionists, respiratory therapists, and librarians experienced 20 percent lower employment growth in these fields. UT-Austin Economics Professor Dan Hammermesh estimated that the “deadweight loss” to society from occupational licensing is between $34.8 billion and $41.7 billion per year.

With Rep. Callegari’s legislation, Texas lawmakers can remove some of this dead weight – or at least prevent it from continuing to grow.

– Marc Levin