Target 2 Investigates: Arguments for deregulating occupational licenses

Published: Dec. 7, 2018 at 5:08 PM CST
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We've been flooded with your comments and responses to our Target 2 Investigation about occupational licensing for hundreds of jobs across Wisconsin.

We discovered the Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) is conducting a study to determine whether occupational licenses are needed for everything from doctors and pharmacists to electricians and barbers.

The DSPS is offering an online survey through December 10th, gathering information on nearly 250 kinds of jobs, asking about the value of a license, barriers to obtaining one and cost.

It'll be included in a report presented to the governor and legislature, who will decide what to do next.

The DSPS sent us this statement Friday following up on our original report:

"The purpose of the occupational licensure study is to offer recommendations to the legislature based on the terms laid out in the survey. This does not mean that the DSPS will be recommending the legislature deregulate all professions currently under the jurisdiction of our department. Additionally, the DSPS cannot unilaterally decide to remove licensure for any occupation. Any changes to state law will need to be considered by the legislature and would go through due process, which includes public input."

We also spoke with more license holders who believe this review is needed.

'It's not an either/or. It's both/and, so licensing has a very important role and regulation is important," says Albert Walker.

But he also believes occupational licenses need to be re-evaluated.

The Green Bay barber says he nearly lost his business because of regulations and rules.

"People need to be properly trained for the safety of themselves and the public to deal with that, so there is an important place for it," says Walker. "How much of it is always really the key question."

The Badger Institute, a think tank that's done research and analysis on licensing and has worked with Albert Walker, calls requirements for certain licensing "irrational," telling Target 2 a cosmetologist needs about 1,550 hours of training to obtain a license and an EMT needs 180.

"It's gotten to the point where a lot of these licenses are actually fencing people out of certain occupations. They're stifling competition, and that's what we're concerned about," says Michael Jahr, Badger Institute vice president of outreach and special projects.

The Badger Institute (formerly known as the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute) says the number of licensed professions in Wisconsin has increased 84 percent in the last two decades.

In our original Target 2 report, many professionals, from health care to electricians, voiced concerns specific to public health and safety (


Jahr says the focus should instead be on possible barriers to licenses in other professions.

"You now need a license to be an auctioneer in Wisconsin, to be a juvenile martial arts instructor, to sell firewood," says Jahr. "Is there really a public safety component to a lot of these licenses, or are there alternatives that are maybe not quite so onerous?"

He says 14 other states -- Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah and Vermont -- are currently looking at licensing reforms.

The DSPS recommendations must be submitted to the governor and legislature by December 31, 2018.