Music therapy, according to Nevada law, is “the clinical use of music interventions” within a therapeutic relationship — including dance, song writing, lyric discussions and even simply listening to music.
Nevada law also states that, without the government’s express permission, practicing “music therapy” is a criminal offense.
So too is giving professional interior decorating advice without first obtaining government approval.
You read that sentence correctly: Professionally coordinating the color and pattern between a chaise lounge and an area rug is illegal without a specific government-issued license.
This government-mandated permission slip for earning a living is called occupational licensing, and it impacts far more professions than just music therapists and interior decorators. Barbers, makeup artists, landscapers and hundreds of low-to-medium income professionals must subject themselves to the expense and hassle of “training” and licensure simply to earn a living.
Supposedly, such onerous regulations are put in place by well-intention lawmakers to “protect” consumers. (What would we do without government protecting us from poorly coordinated household furnishings?)
In reality, the overwhelming majority of such license requirements are based far more in protectionism for existing businesses than for protecting consumers. Sure, consumers need qualified doctors — even if politics often plays a major role in board appointments.
These overzealous attempts to license occupations seriously impact the daily lives of ordinary Americans.
When massage therapist Laurie Wheeler decided to put her skills toward helping horses in Tennessee, she learned just how punitive occupational licensing laws can be.
The Tennessee Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners put an end to her plans, saying that she would not be allowed to massage horses — even if she didn’t charge anything for the service — without first obtaining a veterinary license.
The training for a veterinary license, mind you, does not teach anything about massage therapy — but such details didn’t matter to the state board.
Such absurd government overregulation does not bode well for innovative entrepreneurs such as Wheeler, who was being forced to pay fees and receive training she neither wanted, nor needed.
Often, however, things are even worse. In some instances, these laws contribute to a naked abuse of government power.
When Mats Järlström’s wife got caught by a red light camera in Oregon, the Swedish electrical engineer began questioning the timing of yellow and red lights at intersections throughout the area.
His findings were surprising. The lights appeared to be timed in such a way that optimized revenue for the city — at the expense of road safety.
After presenting his findings on an episode of “60 minutes” the state of Oregon warned him that his actions — analyzing red light cameras and publicizing the results — was illegal because he did not have a license in Oregon to “practice engineering.”
In fact, the Oregon State Board of Examiners for Engineering and Land Surveying even fined him $500, because he referred to himself as an “engineer” in his correspondence — never mind that, according to his degree, he actually is an engineer.
Without government’s blessing, however, that title is apparently a criminal offense in Oregon.
As bad as these two examples are, Nevada is much worse when it comes to the sheer volume of licensing requirements.
In fact, Nevada ranks among the top tier of the most onerously licensing states, according to the Institute for Justice (IJ).
“Nevada is the most expensive state in which to work in a licensed lower- and moderate-income occupation,” says IJ. On average, doing so includes $505 in fees, more than 600 hours of “training” and education, at least two exams and numerous other requirements depending on the industry.
And what’s the result?
It’s harder for folks to find work. After all, when aspiring workers are required to invest years of their time and hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars into getting government permission to earn a living, it proves to be too much of a barrier for some.
An attempt to fix this growing problem failed, again, in the 2017 legislature. Assembly Bill 353 would have required Nevada to use “the least restrictive” means for imposing licensing requirements — effectively reducing the power of licensure boards.
Unfortunately, AB353 died a quiet death in Assembly Commerce and Labor, chaired by Irene Bustamante Adams and Maggie Carlton.
So, at least for now, Nevada continues to be a state that requires landscapers, barbers, music therapists, interior decorators and numerous other mainstream professions to apply for permission slips before earning a living.
Michael Schaus is communications director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute.