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Economy

Opinion | It’s time to reform occupational licensing in Alabama

J. Pepper Bryars

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Nameplate reads J. Pepper Bryars

Did you know that it’s against the law to braid hair, wash hair or even plant flowers professionally in Alabama without a license?

That’s because occupational licensing, originally meant to protect consumers, has gotten way out of hand. A video recently produced by the Alabama Policy Institute illustrates just how ridiculous it has become.

Sure, licensing certain occupations is a good thing. We need to know our builders, physicians, attorneys and those practicing many other specialized and potentially dangerous professions are being well regulated.

But the process has evolved beyond its original intent. Sometimes, it seems to be more about controlling the market and restricting access to competition rather than public safety.

“Alabama licenses a total of 151 occupations, covering over 432,000 Alabama workers, which represents over 21 percent of the state’s labor force,” wrote the authors of The Costs of Occupational Licensing in Alabama, a special report commissioned by API.

The report found that the initial costs of occupational licensing are $122 million, with another $45 million for renewals plus $243 million in annual continuing education costs.

Those costs are eventually passed along to the consumers.

Thankfully, we have an opportunity to at least slow further growth of occupational licensing in Alabama.

State Rep. Randall Shedd, R-Fairview, has introduced House Bill 88, known as the Alabama Sunrise Act.

Under existing law, the Alabama Sunset Committee is responsible for periodically reviewing state professional licensing boards, agencies and commissions to ensure they’re operating effectively and ethically.

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Shedd’s bill would reform the committee’s processes by adding a “sunrise” provision so that when a new licensing requirement is proposed, lawmakers would have an objective set of thorough standards to judge its merits.

The bill states that “no profession or occupation be subject to regulation by the state unless the regulation is necessary to protect the public health, safety or welfare from significant and discernible harm or damage and that the police power of the state (is exercised only to the extent necessary for that purpose.”

In other words, it would have to be more about protecting the people than protecting the profession, used only as a last resort, and even then, it would be applied to the least degree possible.

The bill sets down several requirements that a proposal must satisfy before a new license is created, including:

Demonstrate that it wouldn’t have an unreasonable effect on job creation or job retention or place unreasonable access or restrictions on the ability of individuals who are practicing the profession.

Explain why the public cannot be effectively protected by other means.

And provide documentation of the nature and extent of the harm to the public caused by the unregulated practice of the profession or occupation.

Unless we do something now, we should expect the trend to continue.

“In the past six decades, instances of occupational licensing in the United States have increased from a coverage of around 5 percent of the U.S. labor force to a present-day coverage of close to 25 percent of the U.S. labor force,” wrote Peter Q. Blair and Bobby W. Chung in a recent policy memo from the Cato Institute.

Those pushing for additional occupational licensing may have the best of intentions, but we should remind them of the simple phrase uttered by a Frenchmen more than 200 years ago. His words captured the essence of the free market and became the slogan for an emerging economic doctrine that formed the bedrock of America’s prosperity.

When a meddling advisor to King Louis XIV asked a group of struggling businessmen in Paris how the government could help them increase profits, a frustrated factory owner named Legendre bravely shouted,

“Laissez-nousfaire!”

Translation: “Leave us alone!”

Contact your state lawmaker today and tell them you want some of the boards to simply leave us alone and that the Alabama Sunrise Act should receive a public hearing before the House Boards Agencies and Commissions Committee and soon.

J. Pepper Bryars is a senior fellow at the Alabama Policy Institute. Follow him on Twitter at @jpepperbryars.

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Economy

NAALC to hold public union event in Madison

The event will allow a variety of labor union members and officials to meet and discuss pertinent issues and planning. 

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

The North Alabama Area Labor Council will hold a solidarity event on Saturday in Madison, with several area labor union members present to answer questions from the public. 

The event, which will start at 9 a.m. at the Steamfitters and Pipefitters Union Hall on Madison Blvd., also will allow a variety of labor union members and officials to meet and discuss pertinent issues and planning. 

According to a press release from the NAALC, a number of current representatives from area unions will be present, including members from the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1858, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW) Local 44, IAMAW Local 2766, Ironworkers Local 477, International Alliance of Theatrical and Stagehand Employees Local 900, American Postal Workers Union Local 259 and the International Federation of Professional and Technical Employees Local 27.

The union reps plan to discuss basic issues with anyone interested, such as the basic benefits of union membership and how to form a union at your local workplace. 

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Economy

New unemployment claims decreased last week

Fewer people joined the unemployment rolls last week compared to the week before.

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

There were 7,964 new unemployment claims filed in Alabama last week, down from 8,581 filed the previous week, according to the Alabama Department of Labor. 

Of the claims filed between Oct. 11 and Oct. 17, there were 4,032 related to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s 51 percent, compared to 36 percent the previous week.

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Economy

Governor announces auto supplier IAC plans Alabama expansion

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County.

Brandon Moseley

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that International Automotive Components Group North America Inc. plans to invest over $55.9 million in expansion projects that will create 182 jobs at two Alabama facilities.

“International Automotive Components is a leading global auto supplier, and I am pleased that this world-class company is growing significantly in Alabama and creating good jobs in Cottondale and Anniston,” Ivey said. “IAC’s growth plans show that Alabama’s dynamic auto industry continues to expand despite today’s challenging environment.”

Nick Skwiat is the executive vice president and president of IAC North America.

“Alabama was the logical choice due to its skilled workforce and proximity to the customer,” Skwiat said. “We are excited to see the continued growth of the automotive industry in Alabama and we plan to grow right along with it. We thank the Governor and Secretary Canfield for their leadership in this sector.”

IAC is committing $34.3 million in new capital investment to expand its new manufacturing facility located in Tuscaloosa County. This facility will produce door panels and overhead systems for original equipment manufacturers. That project will create 119 jobs at the production site in Cottondale.

IAC also plans to invest $21.6 million at its manufacturing facility located in the former Fort McClellan in Anniston. That East Alabama project will create another 63 jobs.

This project builds on a milestone 2014 expansion that doubled the size of the Calhoun County facility. There IAC manufactures automotive interior components and systems. Key components produced at the Anniston plant include door panels, trim systems and instrument panels for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC Group is a leading global supplier of innovative and sustainable instrument panels, consoles, door panels, overhead systems, bumper fascias and exterior ornamentation for original equipment manufacturers.

IAC is headquartered in Luxembourg and has more than 18,000 employees at 67 locations in 17 countries. The company operates manufacturing facilities in eight U.S. states.

“With operations around the globe, IAC is the kind of high-performance company that we want in Alabama’s auto supply chain to help fuel sustainable growth,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “We look forward to working with IAC and facilitating its future growth in this strategic industrial sector.”

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Danielle Winningham is the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority.

“International Automotive Components is a valued part of Tuscaloosa County’s automotive sector,” Winningham said. “We are grateful for IAC’s investment in our community and the career opportunities available to our area workforce as a result of their investment.”

“The City of Anniston is excited that IAC has made the decision to expand here. I have enjoyed working with the leadership at IAC, the Calhoun County EDC, and the state of Alabama to get this project finalized,” said Anniston Mayor Jack Draper. “This is even further evidence that Anniston is indeed open for business.”

Only Michigan has more automobile manufacturing jobs than the state of Alabama. Honda, Mercedes, Hyundai, Polaris, Toyota and soon Mazda all have major automobile assembly plants in the state of Alabama.

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Courts

Aderholt fully supports Barrett’s confirmation process

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

Brandon Moseley

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Congressman Robert Aderholt

Congressman Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, updated his constituents on the confirmation process for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett. Aderholt said, “I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms.”

Confirmation hearings began last week and a vote on her confirmation is expected in the next week just days before the general election.

“Senate Democrats are not seriously questioning Judge Barrett on her credentials, instead they have decided to attack her character and her beliefs,” Aderholt said. “I am disappointed to see this unfold on the national stage, but I think Judge Barrett stood strong and did well during this first week of hearings.”

“While I do not have a vote in her confirmation process, I do support her fully and I know she will defend life, protect the Constitution, and uphold our freedoms when she is officially sworn in as an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court,” Aderholt said.

Barrett is a Notre Dame graduate, has served on the U.S. Seventh Court of Appeals and is a former clerk for the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

“I clerked for Justice Scalia more than 20 years ago, but the lessons I learned still resonate,” Barrett said. “His judicial philosophy is mine, too: A judge must apply the law as written. Judges are not policymakers, and they must be resolute in setting aside any policy views they might hold.”

Barrett vowed to keep an open mind on any matter that comes before the court, though Democrats fear she is prepared to overturn Supreme Court precedent on abortion rights and the Affordable Care Act.

That the Republican controlled committee will recommend that Barrett be confirmed appears certain. A vote to confirm Barrett to the nation’s highest court by the full Senate could occur just days ahead of the Nov. 3 election.

President Donald Trump has been the president of the United States for less than four years but if Barrett is confirmed, then he will have selected one third of the U.S. Supreme Court. Barrett fills a place created by the death of the late Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September.

Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s 4th Congressional District. He faces Democratic nominee Rick Neighbors in the Nov. 3 general election.

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