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D.C. region's business licensing among nation's most burdensome

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Want to become an interior designer in the District? A new study says the city's licensing requirements for the gig are the nation's most burdensome. A tree trimmer in Maryland? The regulations in the state are the country's seventh-strictest.

What about a door repair contractor in Virginia? The Old Dominion's 731 days of required training and experience helped the commonwealth lay claim to a spot in the top 10.

In a report issued this week, the Arlington-based Institute for Justice, which describes itself as a libertarian think tank, says the three jurisdictions are some of the country's most demanding in their licensing of 102 different occupations.

Only the District and three other states in the nation require licenses at all to become an interior designer, and all four jurisdictions require "enormous time and expense -- six years -- to meet the education and experience requirements," the report said.

Julie Weber, the owner of J.D. Ireland Interior Architecture & Design, said she went to school for an interior design degree, which helped knock out a lot of the District's requirements. But for those who go the untraditional route, the process can be daunting.

"I think people who did not go to school for interior design, it's a little more challenging," she said, adding that the licensing process in the District is an issue that's "constantly up for debate."

The report says Virginia is the 11th most "broadly and onerously licensed state." Maryland placed 14th in the rankings, while the District followed at 27th.

Dick Carpenter, the group's director of strategic research, said that demanding licensing regulations inhibit economic growth.

"These licensing laws force people to spend a lot of time and effort earning a license instead of earning a living," said Carpenter, one of the report's authors. "They make it harder for people to find jobs and to build new businesses that create jobs."

On average in the District, the report said, licensed workers must pay $240 in fees, pass an exam and participate in 311 days of training.

Maryland and Virginia both require even more training days on average, demanding 446 and 462 days, respectively.

In recent decades, the number of professions that require licensing has soared. In the 1950s, the group said, about 5 percent of workers in the United States required an occupational license. Today, the organization found, that figure has climbed to about 1 in 3.

ablinder@washingtonexaminer.com and lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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