Electrician at work
Patrick Ishmael

From hair braiders to physicians, Show-Me Institute analysts have supported a lot of important licensure reform initiatives over the years, but one area we haven't addressed recently is the licensure of electricians. Unlike many other states, Missouri does not have a statewide license for its electricians, which—given our skepticism of many state licensing regimes—would seem at first glance to be a good thing for free marketeers.

The problem is that in the absence of state action, local governments have imposed their own licensing regimes on their respective electricians, effectively requiring already-qualified electricians to re-license if they want to practice in, say, Springfield, if they aren't already licensed there. In that respect, the plight of Missouri electricians parallels that of doctors who can't easily practice across state lines: Onerous licensing requirements create barriers to entry that negatively impact practitioners and also reduce options (and increase prices) for local customers who would benefit from greater access to these services.

That regulatory tension may be relieved if a Senate bill currently before the House becomes law. SB 240 would allow local municipalities to continue licensing electricians, but it would also require them to accept a statewide electrician license without also requiring the local licensing requirements be fulfilled. Moreover, the bill would grandfather many electricians operating already under a local license into the statewide licensing framework. That means that a longtime electrician with a local license could access a statewide license, and with that statewide license, she could access other municipalities—whether a city had its own licensing regime or not. Also worth noting: the bill passed the Senate unanimously. Given the slow pace of other legislation through that chamber this session, unanimous passage of this bill is amazing in its own right. 

Whether the bill passes the House remains to be seen, but electrician licensure reform certainly deserves consideration. Our ongoing skepticism of state licensing remains in effect, and as time goes by, regular audits of the effect of electrician licensure would be necessary to ensure it does not fall victim to regulatory capture. Future legisuatures should also consider national reciprocity measures for these licenses so that Missouri electricians and customers are able to work where they want, and hire who they want at the best price. That said, the proposed reform—which ultimately simplifies life for Missouri electricians and customers alike—would be an improvement over the current licensing system in effect in the state.

About the Author

Patrick Ishmael

Patrick Ishmael is the director of government accountability at the Show-Me Institute.