The Virginia Senate has voted unanimously for stiffer licensing requirements for art therapists. The state apparently was not beset with claims of fraudulent art therapists going about fleecing the public. So why the move towards more regulation?

Reason succinctly sums up the alleged reasoning behind erecting new barriers for would be art therapists: they work with dangerous materials—you know, scissors and glue. This is transparently an attempt at finding a rationale for additional licensing requirements. It would be hilarious if it didn't keep people from working. 

Here's how a laughable “Study into the Need to Regulate Art Therapists in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” produced by the Virginia Department of Health Professionals, puts it:

“There are however, basic art tools, such as paint and glue, which contain toxic chemicals that could cause harm should they be inhaled or ingested, scissors which have sharp edges capable of causing cuts or punctures, and objects such as clay, if thrown, could be considered potentially dangers [sic].”

The new licensing bill does not lay out the new rules for protecting clients against glue and scissors. Instead it would cede that authority to a newly-established board that would be composed of . . . art therapists. In other words, the very people who have every incentive to keep competitors from entering the field.

Andrew Wimer of the Institute for Justice explained how this works in Forbes:

Art therapists may be quite loud in asking for the state to regulate them because that small group will benefit by having the government protect them from competition, the people potentially harmed by the creation of a new license are silent because they have no idea that the state might be about to turn them into criminals.

That sounds strong, but once a profession is licensed by the government, it gives power to licensing boards and law enforcement to crack down on perceived offenders. In metro Tampa, Florida, the Hillsborough County Sheriff conducted a months-long sting of individuals operating without a handyman license. Undercover deputies filmed men and women performing prohibited tasks like painting—a task that is perfectly safe and legal for a homeowner to do themselves—but that they can’t pay their neighbor to do unless that person has a government-issued license.

My colleague Charlotte Whelan recently reported on how the state of Tennessee is moving to eliminate superfluous professional licensing that keeps people out of work. The newly Democrat-led Virginia is going in the opposite direction.

While the new bill would make it harder to become an art therapist, it does create a new job—for a bureaucrat:

Depending on the increase in workload associated with the provisions of the bill, an additional licensing specialist may be needed. It is estimated that this position would cost an estimated $64,875 annually. Fees for the licensure of art therapists would be set at a level sufficient to cover costs.

 The study on which the new requirements are based is padded. Indeed, it delves pretentiously into the how “since the beginning of human history art has been an instrument for symbolism and self-expression.” Ya think?

All this pretentious blather just to tamp down competition.