For decades, every state has been consistently subjecting more and more occupations to strict licensing requirements. While government regulation of some professions makes sense, this has gone way overboard — killing jobs and economic opportunity.
But recent action in Michigan showed blowback to the bureaucracy, and a lesson in how to balance regulation and the freedom to work.
Three decades ago, Michigan, like most states, added licensed professional counselors to the public health code. But the way the state’s licensing agency wrote the administrative rules gave counselors a lot of freedom to practice. Today, there are 10,000 licensed professional counselors working in the state.
Michigan’s licensing agency now says, however, it interpreted the law incorrectly and the state has thousands of counselors practicing illegally. It began to rewrite the rules, which would have put many counselors out of business or forced them to meet new expensive and time-consuming requirements.
The backlash was severe. Protests occurred around the state and legislators quickly introduced bills to block the agency’s move. The issue pitted different professional associations against each other. The Michigan Psychological Association, which represents people less likely to be affected by the changes, testified in opposition, saying more training is needed for those who treat people with serious disorders. The Michigan Counselors Association, whose members would be locked out without a legislative fix, was supportive, testifying that agency’s rule change would prevent them from treating depression, anxiety, trauma and other conditions.