The Mississippi House of Representatives has passed a number of bills to ease the licensing burden and make things easier for people.

Not everyone agrees with the need to liberalize some of these professions, such as art therapists.

House Bill 1315 would remove the licensing requirements for art therapists, auctioneers, interior designers, and wigologists and was sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton. It happened 72-38 and was sent to the Senate.

Empower Mississippi President Russ Latino says many of these regulations are designed to prevent competition under the guise of consumer protection.

“It’s fair to say the risk of someone decorating a home without a license,” said Latino. “Now the house could get ugly, you could get shaggy carpets that are green or throw pillows that are not to your taste, but no one was hurt in the making of this house.

“So this is an example of something where an industry came together to try to reduce supply. They know that they prevent competition and drive up their own prices. That’s the other thing that is missed a lot. It’s not just about how easy it is for people to get to work. It is how expensive it is for people to live because of every profession you license. All kinds of costs are built into this. And these costs are ultimately passed on to consumers. ”

Art therapists do not believe that their specialty does not need to be regulated.

Susan Anand was the state’s first female art therapist and moved back to Mississippi after completing her bachelor’s degree in fine arts from Indiana University and a master’s in art therapy from New York University.

She now works at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and says that if HB 1315 becomes law, jobs will be lost because a license is required to practice a mental health profession in the state. She and other art therapists work not only with people with mental illness, but also with cancer patients and even veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

The profession is regulated by the state Department of Health and is advised by volunteer art therapists selected by the department at a minimum amount that Anand calls a minimum cost to the state.

Unlike the Cosmetology Board and State Board of Massage Therapy, which have separate offices, staff, inspectors, and tons of regulations, art therapists have simple licensing requirements that include passing the National Board exam and registering with the board.

To remove the licensing requirements, art therapists would have to go through other licensing regimes, such as that for professional advice, which would require additional costs and training.

“Most mental health agencies require a state license to practice,” Anand said. “You need to have a way of recognizing this profession as a standalone profession and setting the standards that need to be in place so people can recognize a licensed, professional art therapist who has the qualifications they need to provide art therapy services to their child or themselves . ”

There are other bills that would change the way the state issues professional licenses.

Another bill, HB 1303, would allow nurses to work independently after 3,600 hours of practice without an agreement with a treating physician. The bill was passed with a margin of 78-38.

Also related is HB 1263, which provides for the recognition of professional permits from other states if applicants moving to Mississippi have their licenses in good condition and have not been disciplined. The bill was drafted by Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, and passed unanimously. The bill is based on similar laws passed in Arizona and Iowa.

“With universal recognition granted, professionals who want to move to Mississippi will certainly no longer go into our current professional licensing system and think that is an obstacle to making a living there,” said Latino. “So that’s a net positive. The ability to come here and use your training on day one, to use your experience so that the people of Mississippi can get services while caring for your family, is tremendously net profit.

“I think what’s exciting is that Mississippi is the first southern state to make this leap, giving us a competitive advantage over the surrounding states.”

With a shrinking population (shrinking 0.1 percent according to the US Census Bureau) in Mississippi, while surrounding states such as Tennessee (eight percent), Arkansas (four percent growth), Alabama (three percent more), Louisiana (two percent more) )), proponents of professional license reform say it will help halt the state’s population loss.

There is also the question of labor force participation, which shows how much of a country’s population is actively working. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mississippi has the second worst labor force participation rate at 55.4 percent, with only West Virginia performing worse at 53.8 percent. The regional average is 61.9 percent.

According to Latino, lowering the barriers to entry for new workers and reducing the number of permitted occupations would help improve that number.

The not-for-profit law firm, the Institute for Justice, released a report on low-income professions licensed by states called “License to Work,” and gives Mississippi some poor results when it comes to onerous licensing requirements.

Mississippi ranks fifth from the bottom for the average license requirements load, 18th for the combined number of licensed professions and the average license requirements load.

The Mississippi Board of Cosmetology regulates wigologists (who make and sell wigs) who spend 1,500 hours in a licensed cosmetics school and pass an exam over a period of at least nine months.

Interior designers are required to have an interior design degree and pass an exam. Each year, certification holders are required to pay a fee of $ 75 and complete 10 credits.

Auctioneers must attend a certified school and pass an exam, which costs $ 100 to attend every two years and pays $ 200 for renewal.

Mississippi is only one of four states that license interior designers, while 33 states regulate the field of auctioning.

One problem with these professional licensing bodies and commissions is that public funds can be misused or even defrauded if they are not constantly monitored by the board or commission.

For the Mississippi Auctioneer Commission, the report released by the State Audit Office in 2018 covered fiscal years 2015 through 2017 and found questionable spending over a two-year period.

Investigators found excessive reimbursements for travel ($ 38,000 over three years) and other expenses. They also criticized the commission for failing to properly supervise their single employee, former MAC managing director Kam Remsen. The report claims Remsen was reimbursed for travel expenses when she announced she could meet with customers for personal business. Investigators also found that several government purchases were of a personal nature.