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Jacques: Tell government to take a hike

Ingrid Jacques
The Detroit News

I grew up in Oregon, with the Pacific Ocean and the Cascade mountains nearby. So my standards for outdoor beauty are fairly high. While it’s hard for the Midwest to compete, I have grown to love northern Michigan.

Traverse City and the Sleeping Bear Dunes are two of my favorite destinations, and I head there as frequently as possible. Many others do, too. Finding reasonably priced lodging — especially during the peak summer season — is increasingly difficult.

That scarcity is why it’s especially frustrating that Traverse City is making it hard on homeowners to rent out a room or their entire home on popular home-sharing sites like Airbnb or HomeAway. The city has cracked down on “violators” and insists on licensing what it refers to as tourist homes. Only a few have made the list, and tourist homes must follow strict rules.

Many Michigan cities are trying to curb home sharing through zoning ordinances. And this crackdown on what individuals can do with their personal property is just one example of the government getting in the way and making life harder on its citizens.

At the state level, licensing requirements for a variety of jobs are outdated and burdensome, particularly for younger or inexperienced workers. Lawmakers are on the case, and have scaled back some of these harmful (and often silly) regulations.

Just last week, the Senate Regulatory Reform Committee reported a bill that would reduce licensing rules on cosmetology students before they can shampoo a client’s hair.

Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, quipped sarcastically on Twitter from the committee meeting that his colleagues were “solving the big issues of day.”

While it is somewhat ludicrous that lawmakers must devote time to discussing hair washing, it’s even more absurd that such stipulations are on the books to begin with. Licensing requirements are often time consuming and costly for individuals — and the regulations are arbitrary. For instance, as Jarrett Skorup, the director of marketing and strategy at the Mackinac Center, has pointed out, it takes only a six-hour course to become an auto mechanic. Commercial jet pilots are federally mandated to log 1,500 hours of instruction. But the state requires barbers to complete 1,800 hours to become licensed.

Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Most of these laws do little to protect the public and add costs for consumers.

Skorup, who has followed the occupational licensing issue closely, recognizes the state has made progress the past six years in reducing some of this government overreach. But there is more to be done.

Skorup suggests lawmakers follow a common-sense approach to reducing regulations, impacting about 200 jobs here. He recommends a “sunrise and sunset” review process for existing and new occupational licenses. In addition, the state in most cases should do away with restrictions banning those with criminal records from becoming licensed, which only leads to a higher recidivism rate. Finally, the state should prevent local governments from adding on their own licensing rules — a glaring problem in Detroit.

Similarly, state lawmakers have introduced bills that would prevent local governments from banning home sharing. But the legislation has stalled, as the state’s powerful tourism industry has sought to quash competition from sites like Airbnb.

In recent years, Michigan has also made inroads in tackling its overcriminalization problem. With more than 3,000 crimes on the books, not to mention thousands of administrative rules and regulations, the state’s made scofflaws of many unsuspecting citizens. For example, you probably weren’t aware that until last June, warming up your car in the driveway before getting in was illegal. There remain too many laws like that one that don’t serve any real value.

Michigan is right to work on rolling back these needless and often harmful laws and regulations. Government should not serve as an impediment to our daily lives.


Twitter: @Ingrid_Jacques