On Tuesday, the august members of the New Hampshire House of Representatives will consider House Bill 287, which would create a commission to study legalizing prostitution. It comes with an “ought to pass” recommendation from the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee. (The jokes really are so obvious, you’ve probably already thought of a better one than this newsletter would.)
HB 287 is part of a growing trend toward legalizing behavior once considered taboo or at least distasteful. From same-sex marriage to marijuana use to prostitution, government-imposed restrictions on private behavior are being abolished. There is even a new movement to make marijuana use a 10th Amendment issue and get the federal government out of it altogether.
(Honestly, 10th Amendment advocates are making a big strategic mistake here. Marijuana should be at the end of the list. It does the 10th Amendment movement no good for everyone to be too complacent after the first victory to put down the Doritos, get off the couch and continue fighting.)
While Granite Staters this year hear a lot about the pros and cons of legalizing “sex work” (that’s what it’s called in the bill), lots of other non-controversial occupations will remain illegal to practice for pay without state approval. For instance, auctioneering.
RSA 311-B makes it “unlawful” for any person to “knowingly engage in, or offer to engage in, auctioneering for a fee, commission, or other consideration unless such natural person has a valid license under this chapter or such other person is an authorized business organization.”
Unless you have a license, you break the law just by claiming you are “able to perform auctioneering.”
In New Hampshire, this is a criminal offense. Auctioneering for pay, or merely claiming the ability to perform auctioneering, is a misdemeanor for an individual and a felony for a business.
The “Occupations and Professions” section of state statutes is peppered with criminal penalties for working without state permission.
RSA 314 makes it a misdemeanor to practice eletctrolysis without a license.
RSA 323 makes it a misdemeanor to sell lightning rods without a license. (We are not making this up.)
RSA 328-H makes it a violation on first offense, a misdemeanor on second, to practice “Asian bodywork therapy” without a license.
RSA 331-A makes it a misdemeanor to engage in real estate brokerage without a license.
RSA 332 makes it a misdemeanor to “practice veterinary medicine” without a license. The statute defines “practice of veterinary medicine” as: “To diagnose, treat, correct, change, relieve, or prevent animal disease, lameness, deformity, defect, injury, or other physical or mental conditions….”
It is not always a criminal offense to work in certain fields without permission. Sometimes the state just makes it really hard to enter the field.
To become a cosmetologist, one must complete 1,500 hours of schooling or 3,000 hours of training under a licensed cosmetologist.
To become a pastoral psycotherapist, one must have a master’s in divinity, a Ph.D. in pastoral therapy, and 3,000 hours of supervised experience.
To become a “shampoo assistant apprentice,” one must first “work under the direct supervision of a licensed barber or cosmetologist for at least 150 hours” and pay a $25 fee. This is for a job that consists exclusively of “shampooing, rinsing and removing rollers or permanent rods, rinsing treated or untreated hair, and other cleansing or sink-related functions not requiring the skill of a cosmetologist or barber.”
If not the state, who will save us from unregistered shampoo apprentices?
Thankfully, some people have noticed that the state’s occupational licensing regime has become exceedingly burdensome. Rep. Bill Ohm, R-Nashua, has introduced a bill to create an occupational regulation review commission that would examine whether licensing boards use the least restrictive means to achieve their goals. It’s not as sexy a media topic as prostitution, but (presumably) it would have a bigger impact on the average Granite Stater.