Washington waives licensing requirements for the privileged, not the poor »Publications» Washington Policy Center


If you want to be a hairdresser or manicurist in Washington state, you are struggling to get your professional license approved by the state during COVID restrictions. The state’s computer system for confirming that you have met the requirements has not been functioning properly for over a month. And, planning a test with the current restrictions is difficult.

If, however, you want to be a lawyer, it’s a cinch. Bar exams have been abolished.

This is the latest example of how government regulation favors the wealthy while imposing high costs and barriers on workers trying to get a job.

After completing their 600 to 1,600 hours of training, cosmetologists, barbers, and manicurists – or anyone else for that matter – are placed into a state system that allows them to take a test for their professional license. The state recently replaced the previous system managed by an outside contractor with a state-run web page. It didn’t go well.

The site was to be ready on July 1. This was not the case. The Department of Licensing (DOL) sent an email on July 9, saying the system would not be available. They noted that they would waive the July 10 deadline for submitting student times. Then promised that the system would be ready by July 16.

This was not the case. On July 15, they sent another notice saying they were delayed again. A week later, however, they said the system was now working and students and apprentices earning hours for their bachelor’s degree could be entered into the system, allowing them to get tested for a license. Again, it wasn’t working.

On July 31, they admitted “there are still problems with our communication system with DL Roope,” the company doing the testing. In addition, they admitted that the system for reporting the hours recorded by students was still not working. Students, whose finances are already strained by the cost of training and COVID restrictions, now face DOL’s broken promises and the inability to make their system work.

This is a good example of the saying “the poor are oppressed by the incompetent”. Many, including the Obama administration, have pointed out the disproportionate impact of professional licensing on the poor and immigrants. In addition, licensing laws have a long history of racial discrimination.

Despite all this, the licensing requirements have not been lifted. Although reporting deadlines have been waived because the system has not worked, students trying to get credit for their work and take their test are left on hold, with no work or income.

On the other hand, those preparing for the bar exam do not have to worry about this problem. In a letter to the Washington State Supreme Court, the dean of Seattle University Law School wrote: “The emotional toll of the murders is high and straining graduates’ ability to prepare. effectively at the bar exam. These excuses do not apply to immigrants and low-income workers who do not have the same special relationships that law students enjoy.

It’s time to relinquish professional licensing requirements during the COVID lockdown. Once the lockdown is over, lawmakers should remove costly and unnecessary restrictions that prevent low-income workers from becoming self-employed.


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