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Opinion | Licensing away economic prosperity

Allen Mendenhall

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By Allen Mendenhall
Executive Director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty

Do you want to alleviate poverty in Alabama? Do you want to curb the power of special interest groups over government agencies? Do you want more affordable goods and services in basic industries?  Do you want to help disadvantaged groups find good jobs and become productive citizens? Do you want to reduce the population of our overcrowded prisons?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should read a new report published by the Alabama Policy Institute titled “The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama.” Coauthored by Daniel Smith (Troy University), Courtney Michaluk (Troy University), David Hall (Troy University), and Alex Kanode (George Mason University), the report details the effects of occupational licensure on our state.

What is occupational licensure? In short, it’s governmental regulation requiring people to obtain a license before entering into certain trades or fields. Sounds harmless, right? Aren’t these regulations in place to protect consumers from exploitation and inexpert practices? Such reasoning led to the rise in occupational licensure, which today extends to several zones of economic activity.

However well-meaning, occupational licensure has had unintended consequences on the people it’s designed to protect. Instead of helping average consumers, it lines the pockets of industries that have lobbied to regulate away entrepreneurial forces that drive down costs.

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If you’re poor and trying to find low-skilled work as a barber, manicurist, eyebrow threader, hair stylist, school bus driver, or shampoo assistant, you must obtain a license first. This license may be prohibitively expensive because of renewal fees, coursework, continuing education, and so forth.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations,” according to the report, “covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the labor force.” Think about that: more than two of every 10 people working in Alabama need a license to do what they do for a living. Licensing boards governing admission standards and prerequisites can mandate expensive training and dues that don’t affect the quality of industry services.

Economists refer to occupational licensure as a barrier to entry. Barriers to entry ensure that those already within a profession or trade can raise prices to artificially high levels, in effect squeezing out competition by using the mechanisms of government to control the market.

Inflated prices harm low-income families who cannot afford to buy what they could have bought if the market had set prices based on natural supply and demand. Spouses of military service members often suffer from occupational licensure because, when they move from state to state, they must jump through hoops to enter the licensed profession in which they practiced in other jurisdictions.

Occupational licensure is, in short, a net burden on the economy, escalating prices, limiting consumer choice, and restricting economic mobility.  The API report estimates that the overall costs of occupational licensure in Alabama exceed $122 million. That’s a lot of money. What can be done to keep some of it in the hands of the ordinary people who need it most?

The report proposes five reforms for Alabama policymakers:

  1. “[T]hey can reform current procedures for extending occupational licensing to new occupations and mandate thorough review processes to ensure that licensing is not extended to new occupations without a demonstrable and severe threat to consumer safety that cannot be overcome with the market mechanisms, such as consumer or expert reviews, reputation, guarantees, or private certification, or the already existing government laws, such as those dealing with liability, fraud, misrepresentation, and false advertising.”
  2. “[T]hey can establish procedures to systematically review all licensure requirements for currently licensed occupations to ensure that they do not require unnecessary or excessive requirements or costs for licensure.
  3. “[T]hey can systematically review all currently licensed occupations to determine, individually, whether a demonstrable severe threat to consumer safety exists. If not, they can remove occupation licensing entirely for those occupations.”
  4. “[They] can explore licensure reforms that specifically target ex-offenders” to reduce the prison population and criminal recidivism.
  5. “[They] can … explore occupational licensing reform with military members and their families in mind.”

A short article cannot capture the nuance and particulars of the entire report; readers should view the report for themselves to make up their own minds.

During this time of partisan divide and political rancor, people of good faith on both the left and the right can agree that something needs to be done about occupational licensure. The problem cannot continue to grow. It presents a unique opportunity for Republican and Democratic lawmakers to come together to ease economic burdens on the people of Alabama. Let’s hope they seize it.

Allen Mendenhall is associate dean at Faulkner University Thomas Goode Jones School of Law and executive director of the Blackstone & Burke Center for Law & Liberty. Visit his website at AllenMendenhall.com.

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Opinion | Americans are better off now

Bradley Byrne

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Two years ago, I joined other Republican House members in unveiling our “Better Way” agenda. The agenda covered everything from national security to tax reform to the economy. It was a bold vision about a different path for America that wasn’t driven by a larger, more powerful federal government. Instead, we advocated for a better way where we got government out of the way and allowed the American people to flourish.

 Working with President Trump, we have held true to our promises to the American people. Two years later and with many parts of the agenda in place, we can safely say that Americans are better off now. Our communities are safer. The economy is booming. Our military is being rebuilt. Our “Better Way” is paying off.

 Our communities are safer because we have made supporting law enforcement a top priority. We have passed historic legislation to address the opioid crisis, which is having a horrible impact on communities in Alabama and throughout the country. In addition to better policy, we have invested $4 billion in grants and programs to help combat the opioid crisis.

 We passed legislation to devote more resources to school safety, and we have made real progress in the fight against human trafficking. In fact, we have seen a 60 percent decline in online advertising for sex trafficking.

Also, important to keeping our communities safe, we set aside $1.5 billion for physical barriers and technology along the southern border and provided for over 90 miles of a border wall system. Border security is national security.

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No one can deny that the American economy is booming. Just consider these numbers: 90 percent of Americans are seeing larger paychecks under our tax reform bill. 3.7 million jobs have been created since November 2016. There are 6.6 million job openings in the United States as of May 2018, meaning more jobs than job seekers. And, $4.1 billion has been saved in agency regulatory costs by rolling back burdensome government regulations.

 One of my biggest concerns during the Obama Administration was the hollowing out of our military. We had planes that couldn’t fly and ships that couldn’t sail. We were not making the continuous critical investment in our military necessary to keep up with our adversaries. Thankfully, those days are over.

 We have made the largest investment in our military in 15 years. This means 20,000 new troops, the largest pay increase for our service members since 2010, more training time, better equipment, new ships, and much more.

 On the world stage, countries know that the United States means what we say. ISIS is on the run in the Middle East, North Korea has come to the negotiating table, and China is being held accountable for their dangerous trade practices.

 Now, I want to make clear that much work remains. For example, we have to keep working to fix our broken immigration system and ensure that our borders are finally secure. We also cannot give up on our efforts to improve health care in our country. Costs remain too high and rural communities right here in Alabama are facing dangerous hospital closures.

 But, despite what some on the other side of the aisle and the national news media want you to believe, the American people are better off now than they were two years ago. That’s a testament to our pro-growth agenda, but, more importantly, it is a testament to the spirit and drive of the American people.

Want to know more? I encourage you to visit Better.gop to learn more about the various ways the American people are better off now.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Pro-Life Movement momentum is strong

Martha Roby

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As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I have the privilege each year to advocate for the priorities most important to the people who live and work in Alabama’s Second District.  Among many other key issues, I have been proud to stand up and fight for a strong military and smart agriculture policy on this committee. On the reverse, I am also in a strong position fight against funding from being steered towards programs or organizations that I adamantly oppose. Recently when the Appropriations Committee approved our Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Fiscal Year 2019 funding bill, I had the opportunity to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves: the unborn.

As a member of the Labor-HHS Subcommittee, I am extremely proud to report that our bill passed by the full Committee includes the strong pro-life language I have fought for year after year and implements additional policy riders to defend life. Every single one of these measures is critically important and further ensures that no taxpayer dollars can be used for abortions.

Among the key pro-life provisions included in the Labor-HHS FY19 funding bill are the Hyde Amendment, which directs that no taxpayer dollars be used to fund abortions, and the Dickey-Wicker Amendment, which bans Labor-HHS funding from being used on research that harms human embryos.

In addition to these longstanding pro-life measures, our bill also includes several other important pro-life provisions that continue our efforts to assign greater protections for life under the law. These measures include the Conscience Science Protection Act, which protects the rights of health care providers that do not participate in abortion.

In addition, the bill includes language that prohibits funding for fetal tissue research obtained from abortion. This measure might sound familiar because it is a direct response to the 2015 scandal that revealed how Planned Parenthood officials were systematically altering abortion procedures to preserve babies’ organs in order to sell them to researchers for profit. Planned Parenthood’s action was sick, callous, and completely inhuman.

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Finally, the bill includes language to prohibit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving any available funding, including through Title X family grants. This measure works hand-in-hand with the Trump Administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which also directs that Planned Parenthood is not eligible to receive Title X grant money. As I have said many, many times: Abortion is not family planning. Abortion is not health care. Organizations that offer these services should not receive taxpayer dollars that are intended for family planning.

Throughout my time in Congress, I have remained unapologetically pro-life. I believe life begins at conception, and our laws and policies should reflect a strong commitment to defending life at every stage. I have considered it a great privilege to have a platform with which I can serve as a voice for the voiceless.

After eight long years of coming up short pro-life victories, I am encouraged that we now have a President who supports our efforts and is willing to sign important measures into law. The pro-life movement’s momentum is strong, and I look forward to seeing it grow as we continue to impact meaningful change on behalf of the unborn. I am eager to support our Labor-HHS funding bill when it comes before the full House for a vote.

 Martha Roby represents Alabama’s Second Congressional District. She lives in Montgomery, Alabama with her husband Riley and their two children.

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Guest Columnists

Opinion | Gerald Dial is a steady hand for Alabama

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Alabama’s economy is growing…but it can do so much more. The key is having the right leadership in all elected positions, people who have vision.

So far, Governor Kay Ivey has shown she has what it takes to make important changes and place our state in a position to win.

Did you know agriculture and forestry together are the biggest industry in Alabama? They contribute $70 billion each year toward the economy. Nearly 9 million acres and 600,000 Alabamians are involved in this huge business that benefits us all.

I would know; I was Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries several years back. During that time, we put Alabama’s top asset at the forefront of economic development.

John McMillian, our current commissioner who is term-limited and running for Treasurer, has done a good job, and now Alabama is at another crossroads. We need the next Ag Commissioner to find new and more ways to grow our state.

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Gerald Dial is just that person. He and I served together in the State Senate, and his Christian values and new ideas are exactly what Alabama needs right now. The key to making government work for the people is to have someone who can’t be bought but also knows how government works. Gerald Dial fits the bill, and I trust him explicitly.

Just recently Gerald Dial created a solution to a massive problem in our state – the opioid crisis. This pandemic is killing thousands of our citizens each year. Instead of sitting back and think it isn’t his problem, Gerald Dial petitioned the drug manufacturer, Kaleo, of naoxolene, an injection that can save someone experiencing an opioid overdose. The delivery device is called EVZIO.

The result is 1,744 FREE doses of an overdose-reversing drug to Alabama’s volunteer rescue squads to combat the opioid crisis. That $4 million donation to our rural first responders equates to nearly 2,000 lives that will be saved.

I could go on and on about Gerald Dial because he’s such a wonderful friend and effective public servant, but what I want to ask you is to support Gerald Dial in the July 17th Republican Primary Runoff for Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries.

The powerful special interest groups in Montgomery don’t want Gerald elected, because they are scared he won’t take marching order like their preferred candidate. I don’t know about you, but that’s all I need to know about Gerald Dial – the powerbrokers don’t want him, so I do!

Charles Bishop was a Republican member of the Alabama Senate. He represented District 5 from 2006 to 2010. The district covers portions of Winston, Walker, Tuscaloosa and Jefferson Counties. He was elected as Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries for the term 1999 to 2003. 

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Opinion | Licensing away economic prosperity

by Allen Mendenhall Read Time: 4 min
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