An online review portal could replace some occupational licenses in Washington

March 10, 2017 | By CALEB TROTTER

Those of us who oppose over-abundant occupational licensing schemes due to the burdens they impose on employment and the economy without supplying many benefits for the public, frequently note that web-based services like Yelp, and Uber and Lyft’s 5-star rating system are good examples of alternatives to licensing. As it turns out, one Washington legislator has truly taken this idea to heart.

HB 1361, introduced in January by Rep. Manweller in the Washington House of Representatives, would remove occupational licensing requirements for seven occupations, and replace them with an online portal where the public could rate and comment on practitioners’ performance. I find this bill to be quite intriguing.

The seven occupations targeted for de-licensing (animal massage, auctioneer, boxing announcer, fishing guide, landscape architect, manicurist, and horse floater) do not involve significant (if any) public health or safety concerns. As a result, creating a simple way for the public to provide feedback to practitioners, and create a source of information for consumers looking for a practitioner, addresses the oft-stated public interests served by licensing without creating the barriers to enter the profession that result from licensing. (Of course, whether a government-run portal is necessary to accomplish this is another question, but in light of how difficult it is to de-license professions, I’m not going to quibble too much over that point).

The bill is currently under consideration in the House Business and Financial Services Committee, and based on the remarks of the Committee Chair it may not get very far. But I’m pleased to see another creative approach to dealing with the very real problem of unnecessary occupational licensing. This approach is yet another option for the growing contingent of those calling for reform of state licensing laws. I look forward to seeing what happens with the bill.