Hoosier midwives want it.
Massage therapists fought to get it.
Barbers and hairdressers don’t want to lose it.
Real estate agents – incredibly – might lose it. (More on that in a minute.)
Though millions of Americans believe government over-regulates businesses, efforts to stop regulating tens of thousands of Hoosier small businesses face a formidable challenge:
The people who run those businesses want them to be licensed and regulated.
Yet the Indiana Senate last month voted 36-13 in favor of a bill that would systematically review about a dozen regulated occupations with an eye toward ending the regulation. The bill moves to the House.
The state already has in place a credible review process. In late 2011, that panel issued its first round of reviews and recommended deregulating five professions, including barbers and hair stylists. After the stylists descended upon the Statehouse to protest a bill that would have achieved exactly what the panel recommended, lawmakers quickly ran away from the proposal, and the sponsor withdrew it.
The new bill might suggest another example of “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,” but sponsoring lawmakers are clever this time. If adopted, the bill would again require a review of certain occupations, but instead of requiring a legislative vote to eliminate an occupation from licensing, it would automatically eliminate the occupation unless the legislature voted to continue licensing.
The new bill is titled ERASER, for Eliminate, Reduce and Streamline Employee Regulation. If it becomes law, over the next five years the targeted occupations would no longer be regulated and subject to licensing unless the legislature votes otherwise. The targets include real estate agents, home inspectors, dietitians, land surveyors, massage therapists, certified surgical technologists, behavioral analysts and – yes – beauticians.
Lack of licensing means an end to requiring minimum training requirements or knowledge. It would become much easier for anyone – qualified or not – to hang up a shingle and start a business selling real estate, cutting hair or inspecting homes.
The obvious value of government regulating professions is no plainer than in the case of Fort Wayne doctor William Hedrick, who is accused of overprescribing medication and whose care of seven patients who died has been questioned. Hedrick cannot practice medicine now, but there are no criminal charges, and no judge has made him stop. The Indiana Medical Licensing Board suspended his license, an administrative decision.
No one is proposing to stop licensing and regulating doctors or dentists or lawyers.
But the ERASER bill would end certification of surgical technologists, who assist surgeons during operations with duties that can include preparing and sterilizing equipment, holding retractors and suctioning the patient.
Barbers and beauticians argue that health concerns are a major reason they should be required to have training. Tools must be sterilized between use on clients. Practitioners need to know what to do if a client starts bleeding or if they find head lice. Untrained hair stylists might not know that pregnant women should not use certain hair dyes. Though salons don’t serve food, employees often bring in food that must be kept safe. What if a stylist mishandles bleach? What are the signs of ringworm?
If the ERASER bill becomes law, licenses for occupations in an entire chapter of Indiana law governing regulation of “beauty culture” could be wiped out. They include barbers, hair stylists, nail technicians, cosmetologists, manicurists and electrologists.
Yes, there is a certain amount of turf protection going on. Current practitioners had to have training and licensing – why should newcomers be exempt? What would happen to beauty schools?
But licensing and regulation set minimum standards that consumers should expect and that give some professions credibility.
In the 2000s, trained massage therapists sought licensing because they wanted to be distinct from women who offer sexual services in “massage parlors.”
While the General Assembly is considering deregulating some occupations, it is also looking at adding some to the regulatory umbrella. An editorial last week explained that Hoosier midwives want to be regulated because currently, those who are not nurses break the law if they assist in childbirth.
Though the hair stylists have been the loudest in their opposition, the most mind-boggling aspect of the bill would drop education requirements and licensing for real estate agents and brokers. Currently, agents must have 54 hours of classroom learning and pass a test then be subject to continuing-education requirements.
“I’m not aware of any state in the country that doesn’t license real estate professionals,” said Karl Berron, CEO of the Indiana Association of Realtors.
Berron notes that as currently written, the law gives the legislature a narrow window to keep regulations in place for a profession, specifying in which legislative session that vote has to come. That could make it easier for lawmakers to skip a vote, which would allow automatic deregulation to take place.
Real estate agents must know the rights and responsibilities of sellers and buyers. They must know the proper forms of contracts and what language is unacceptable. They must know how laws govern their fees. What happens when an offer is accepted – and then withdrawn? What happens when the buyer’s home inspector finds termites?
Such a discovery may wrongly assume that home inspectors know what they are doing because they are on the deregulation hit list, too.