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5 Jobs Under Government Attack

BOSTON (TheStreet) -- While the mantra of "job creation" usually means big tax breaks and deregulation to keep industries from running to the border, many states are clamping down on professions and businesses they find undesirable or a threat to their existing constituents.

Some of these crackdowns are funny. Some are weird. Some are just plain shocking.

Are you getting sleepy? If so, is it because of a licensed hypnotist? In Florida, it had better be.
  • Texas requires computer repair technicians to get a private investigator's license, which could require a degree in criminal justice or three-year apprenticeship. Uncredentialed IT guys could face a $4,000 fine, one year in jail or a $10,000 civil penalty. Consumers who knowingly take their computers to unlicensed companies are subject to the same punishment. Since 2007, anyone in Texas who accesses nonpublic computer files to gather information is deemed by the state to have conducted an "investigation" -- thus the requirement.
  • New Jersey told yoga teachers and martial arts instructors two years ago that they had to get a state license or face fines of up to $50,000. Less than a year later a law was passed that eliminates the requirement. Similar rules are still on the books in other states, though.
  • In Washington, D.C., unlicensed tour guides can be punished for historical chitchat for up to 90 days in jail.
  • In Florida, officials threatened an interior designer with a $25,000 fine if she didn't complete a six-year apprenticeship and pass a test required to be recognized as a legal practitioner of that profession. A lawsuit followed, but last week the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the existing law. Similar lawsuits had been successful in New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Connecticut, and an appeal in Florida is in the works, according to the Institute For Justice, which describes itself as a "nation's only libertarian public interest law firm."
  • "This is someone who gives you suggestions on how to arrange your furniture," says Bert Gall, senior attorney for the nonprofit firm, which has also represented those tormented Washington tour guides and casket-selling monks. "This is not someone who is going to build your house or tell you where to place fire exits. We are talking about somebody who says, 'These kinds of paintings would look good here.'"

  • Lousiana's Saint Joseph Abbey filed a lawsuit in August in U.S. District Court to challenge the constitutionality of a state requirement that its monks must be licensed as funeral directors to sell their handmade wooden caskets. Under Louisiana law, it is a crime for anyone but a licensed funeral director to sell "funeral merchandise." To sell caskets legally, the monks say they would have to "abandon their calling for one full year to apprentice at a licensed funeral home, learn unnecessary skills and take a funeral industry test." They would also have to convert their monastery into a "funeral establishment" by, among other things, installing equipment for embalming human remains.

What's behind these licensing oddities?

The political and financial clout of existing business and trade groups is a catalyst, Gall says.

"Cities, in combination with interest groups, have worked to pass regulations that protect their businesses and, unfortunately, courts haven't done a good job of saying these regulations are clearly protectionist and therefore unconstitutional," he says. "The problem is you get into a situation where the political marketplace picks winners and losers, not the economic marketplace. It used to be a very small number of businesses that required a license. Now just about everything you can possibly do requires a license. It is like a disease that spreads throughout the country, where entrenched economic interests are keeping out entrepreneurs. Right now, we need entrepreneurs. We don't need to be shutting them down."

Here are some other professions besieged by increased scrutiny and government regulations:

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