It’s the holidays. Time for good cheer, glad tidings and songs of the season. Good will to all, peace and joy.
But in North Carolina, a Grinch hides around every corner. He steals opportunity and won’t let people work. The Grinch is occupational licensing. He’s a mean one.
Traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house with a stop at Santa’s shop? Your tour guide must be licensed by the state of North Carolina.
Everyone wants to look their best during the holidays, right? But you can’t do that without a license in North Carolina. Make-up artists, skin-care specialists, cosmetologists, barbers, and manicurists all require a license to make you sparkly and bright for the festivities.
If you need to relax after all the shopping, present wrapping and baking, your massage therapist will need a license to soothe your aching muscles.
In charge of the office Christmas party booze? Be prepared to get a limited special occasion ABC permit, issued to any individual other than the owner of the premises. Is your non-profit holding a holiday fundraiser and selling holiday cheer? You’ll need a $150 permit for that. Are you picking up the booze for the party? If you’re hauling more than 100 liters of unfortified wine or more than 40 liters of fortified wine or liquor, you’ll need a permit for that, assuming you’re not an alcoholic or bootlegger. If so, no permit for you.
If you want to keep those presents under the tree safe from holiday snitches, you’ll need a licensed installer for your security alarm system. Planning on a roaring fire on a frosty night? You’ll need a licensed fire alarm system installer to ensure you’re not overly toasty. If the heat goes out, you’ll need a licensed HVAC contractor to get that up and running again.
Surely Santa’s safe, right? Hold on to your Christmas cookies. North Carolina dairy laws require that people who sample milk hold a current sampler’s license. Seriously, what good are cookies without milk? If Santa should lock himself out while up on the rooftop, only a licensed locksmith is allowed to get him back in the house. Try the chimney instead? Chimney sweeps don’t have to be licensed, but they can be self-certified.
If you want to preserve glad tidings for the rest of the year with Rudolph’s red nose and antlers over your mantle, you’ll need a licensed taxidermist to help with that.
Don’t pay a neighbor or friend to keep Fido or Tabby while you’re visiting family for the holidays. They have to get a boarding kennel license before that’s allowed.
Good character and moral turpitude are a requirement for many licenses. You may be able to fool Santa Baby, but North Carolina licensing boards know who’s been naughty or nice. Break their rules and you’ll not only get coal in your stocking but hefty fines and a criminal record.
North Carolina’s licensing Grinch is a mean one. He’s the 41st most burdensome in the country, requiring a license for 67 of 102 lower-income occupations. It’s the 17th most broadly and onerously licensed state in the country. People are robbed of opportunities to work, to start businesses, to realize their dreams.
When the tinsel fades, the songs are sung and the egg nog’s been nogged, this Grinch will still be here. Unless someone steps up. It will take strong leadership and commitment to repeal and reform licensing so it works — and allows people to work. Cindy Lou Who changed the Grinch. So can we.
Becki Gray is senior vice president at the John Locke Foundation.