Exposing Occupational Licensing Abuses Nationwide
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Her experience as a licensed real property appraiser in West Virginia turned out to be the perfect training ground for the study of public corruption, restraint of trade and government overreach. Who would have thought it?
After 27 years of being whipsawed by West Virginia’s notorious appraiser-licensing apparatus, the Appraisal Foundation – and the latter’s continually changing copyrighted standards – and a complicit federal monitor, Lori Noble has become truly inspired – inspired to warn the public of the dangers of uncontrolled growth in occupational licensing.
In July, the Daniels-based appraiser wrapped up her final assignment as a mortgage appraiser and began a new chapter in her life. She will serve as outreach and public relations coordinator at the Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation. Housed at the University of West Virginia’s John Chambers College of Business and Economics, its mission is to provide information to citizens, policymakers and researchers about the extent, scope and effects of occupational regulation.
There she will help to catalogue and report on occupational licensing across the country.
“She has lived the ultimate cautionary tale,” said appraiser-author Jeremy Bagott. “She’s witnessed firsthand a licensing scheme run amok. You can’t get this from a book. Her career as a licensed real property appraiser in West Virginia will serve her well. She’s developed an eagle eye for identifying fiefdoms, restraint of trade, regulatory capture, conflicts of interest, self-dealing, government zealotry and rogue boards and commissions.”
Noble’s thinking over the years has evolved. She went from viewing occupational licensing as a necessary means to protect the safety and welfare of the public to a cynical tool promoted by established businesses to erect barriers against innovation and competition. This isn’t the case in all professions, she says, but it is in far too many.
Recently, working with lead sponsor state Delegate Brandon Steele, along with Delegates Geoff Foster and Josh Booth, she helped bring about West Virginia House Bill 4285, a long-overdue statute that was signed into law in April.
The statute helps counter cronyism. It attempts to keep the board from maintaining a perpetual scarcity of appraisers in the state, which the board has done by slow-walking applications for years. All West Virginians indirectly paid the price for the artificial scarcity. The new law now requires the board to provide applicants a written statement within 15 calendar days of its decision to deny an applicant’s license or renewal request.
“The West Virginia appraiser licensing board has been a petri dish, incubating all manner of petty corruption over the years,” said Bagott.
In an attempt to quash one reported scheme, the new law bans any member of the West Virginia Real Estate Appraiser Licensing and Certification Board from disciplining a licensee and then hiring on as an expert witness in a lawsuit involving the licensee. The statute attempts to remove the board members’ financial incentive to penalize appraisers by eliminating the possibility of future revenue attached to their disciplinary actions.
Noble points out that in the 1950s, only about 5% of all occupations required licensing or certification. Today, that percentage has grown to about one-quarter of all U.S. jobs. Occupational licensing and other onerous regulations now limit access to diverse professions like dance instructor, hair braider, manicurist, tour guide, interior designer and many more.
She also points out the way in which occupational licensing limits mobility of America’s once famously mobile workforce. If one spouse is in a licensed profession, the family may not be able to simply pull up stakes and move to accommodate the job prospects of the other spouse because of licensing concerns in the new state. It keeps workers from going to where the jobs are. It also disproportionately harms military spouses.
Even in professions where most would agree licensing makes sense, the requirements of licensing are often both burdensome and aimed at protecting the market share of licensees, rather than addressing public health and safety.
Early in her career, esoteric concepts like “regulatory capture” were not on her radar by name, but the deadweight loss she experienced due to increasingly gratuitous regulations placed on real property appraisers made her want to understand the phenomenon and take action.
“I’m grateful to the many who’ve traveled the problem-solving journey with me,” she said. “I’ll be working on research papers, helping to build a national database of occupational licensing across the United States and taking intelligence to policy makers to help them make informed decisions.”
We wish her the very best.
Established in 2016, The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation (CSOR) is an academic research center currently within the John Chambers College of Business and Economics at West Virginia University. The Knee Center for the Study of Occupational Regulation offers student fellows the opportunity to conduct, analyze, and present research that goes toward developing a national database of occupational regulation, focusing on healthcare and other occupations.