New Hampshire Senate Rejects Occupational Licensing Bill

The New Hampshire Senate Executive Departments and Administration Committee rejected a bill that would have created a state commission for reviewing occupational licensing rules.

The committee voted to reject House Bill 1685 (H.B. 1685) on April 5. The state House of Representatives had approved the bill in March.

Opportunities Squashed

H.B. 1685’s sponsor, state Rep. Bill Ohm (R-Nashua) says his bill could have helped people get  jobs and lift themselves out of poverty and drug addiction.

“New Hampshire has an interesting dichotomy,” Ohm said. “We have extremely low unemployment but high levels of opioid addiction. We have perhaps 15,000 recovering opioid addicts sidelined from our workforce, and a need for able-bodied working adults. One part of the bill was to make New Hampshire ‘recovery friendly’ by requiring licensing boards to determine, in advance, whether an individual’s criminal record would disqualify that individual from obtaining the appropriate license.”

Ohm says H.B. 1685 would have created opportunities for those seeking to better themselves.

“The intention of the bill was to increase employment opportunities for those who wish to work,” Ohm said. “It does that by starting a process to review all occupational licensing over a five-year period to see if the current laws are appropriate.”

Hoped to Cut Cronyism

Ohm says many occupational licensing rules reflect obvious cronyism.

“Some professions, such as cosmetology, require more than 1,000 hours of training to get an appropriate license,” Ohm said. “The expense of that training serves to discourage job seekers who wish to enter that profession, and seems to primarily benefit those who wish to restrict additional competition. If an EMT can qualify for a license with 40 hours of training, is cosmetology that much more dangerous to public health and safety?”

‘Little Public Purpose’

David Harrington, an economics professor at Kenyon College, says his research has led him to conclude occupational licensing needlessly increases the prices of goods and services.

“Most of my studies of occupational licensing involve the funeral industry,” Harrington said. “I have found evidence that more stringent requirements to become a funeral service worker increase funeral prices paid by consumers and reduce the likelihood that they choose cremation, because funeral directors persuade many of them to purchase a more expensive, traditional earth burial.”

Ohm says many government occupational restrictions have little real benefit for the general public.

“Licensing is certainly appropriate for occupations that put the health and safety of the public at risk, such as medical professionals, but other licensed professions, such as an athletic trainer or an auctioneer, seem to involve little public risk,” Ohm said. “Requiring a state license to enter certain professions seems to create a high barrier to entry with little public purpose.”

Disparate Impacts

The burden of government permission slips is especially heavy for women and ethnic minorities, Harrington says.

“Women are less likely to be funeral directors in states that require all funeral directors to be embalmers,” Harrington said. “I also think that these laws make it difficult for immigrants to enter funeral directing to serve their communities.”

Free-Market Alternatives

Ohm says the public can ensure the safety and quality of goods and services without government control.

“Professions should be open to jobseekers who meet appropriate standards of training and proficiency,” Ohm said. “Industry or government certifications, proof of insurance and bonding, and even social media reports are less restrictive ways to protect consumers than licensing.”

Editor’s Note: This article was published in cooperation with The Heartland Institute’s Budget & Tax News.

PHOTO: New Hampshire State House in Concord, NH. Photograph taken and uploaded by Jared C. Benedict on 29 December 2004. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

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New Migrant Surge Tests Canada’s Welcoming Stance

A small group of people from Nigeria and Mali stepped off a shuttle bus here on a recent evening and lugged suitcases and backpacks along a country road toward the border with Canada. A Canadian police officer was waiting there to arrest them.

The group is part of a fresh wave of asylum seekers flooding into Canada in recent weeks, undeterred by the threat of arrest and posing the latest test for Canada’s immigration-friendly stance.

Roughly 2,600 people used unofficial border crossings like this one to enter the country in April, according to Canadian police data. That marked the latest surge following the crossing last summer of some 8,500 asylum seekers.

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Canada’s Liberal government has faced heated criticism over its handling of the influx. The opposition Conservatives want the government to shut down unofficial border crossings, saying the asylum seekers using them are sapping resources normally devoted to processing applicants from other immigration and refugee streams. The Immigration and Refugee Board, which decides on asylum claims, has a backlog of 53,000 cases, and the labor union representing Canada’s border officers has said that staffing is insufficient to deal with the added pressure of asylum seekers.

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The province of Quebec complained publicly last month that it wasn’t receiving enough support from the federal government to deal with the new spike in asylum seekers. In response, officials have promised to come up with a plan for moving more asylum seekers into English-speaking provinces.

Last year, facing the arrival of thousands of Haitians who feared losing their temporary protected status in the U.S., Canadian officials began a campaign to dissuade them from turning up at the border and seeking asylum. The effort included targeted advertising and visits to Haitian and Central American communities to dispel rumors that Canada granted automatic residency.

For a while, the efforts appeared to be working, and asylum claims at the border fell sharply. But those earlier arrivals have been replaced by others, mostly from Nigeria, officials said, illustrating the challenge Canadian officials face in identifying and preventing the next big influx.

Officials say the Nigerians have been turning up at the Canadian border after obtaining visas that allow them to travel to the U.S.

Last week, Canada Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen said the U.S. and Canada are studying a 14-year-old treaty called the Safe Third Country Agreement that requires asylum seekers to make their claims in whichever country they arrive first.

There is an exception if they enter Canada illegally, making routes like the one used from upstate New York into Quebec popular because it allows asylum seekers to get around the deal. Canada says it isn’t practical to apply the agreement to the entire border, in part because much of the border isn’t staffed by guards.

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The response in Canada to the wave of asylum seekers has been mixed. A Quebec-based organization called Bridges Not Borders has sent delegations to the border to greet incoming migrants and is lobbying Canadian officials to allow asylum seekers to use official points of entry. But last year, the arrival of thousands of Haitians in the French-speaking province triggered several anti-immigration rallies. Another Quebec group is planning a protest at the border with New York state later this month. The group wants asylum seekers turned back if they approach at unofficial crossings.

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