Who should be licensed? Some professionals oppose Abbott proposal

DALLAS –- Interior design is an often misunderstood profession.

"What's misunderstood and not known is how much detail and information goes into what we do," said Stacy Peters of Faulkner Designer Group. "We're really responsible for the health and safety for the people who are inside a building."

Many designers work with architects and select everything from flooring to finishes. Each of those items must comply with fire and safety codes, along with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Plus, unlike decorators, licensed designers must have a degree, experience, and pass a national exam.

"It's one of the few things that gives us credibility against the person down the street who says they're just a good decorator," Peters explained.

But Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott said designers don't need licenses. Neither do dozens of other professions, he said, including dog trainer, coach, auctioneer, manicurist, and tow truck operator, among others.

"We must work with the legislature to remove senseless barriers to growth, because over-regulation results in less competition, fewer choices, and higher costs," Abbott explained on his website. "It discourages those who want to start a business and limits growth in our job market.

"One study of national trends found that occupational licensing programs reduce the rate of job growth by 20 percent," the candidate's plan further states.

Right now, the state issues more than 150 different licenses. They are designed to protect consumers. Auctioneers, for instance, regularly handle people's property and cash.

But Abbott said the only regulated professions Texas needs are those vital to health and safety, like doctors.

But interior designers are vital to health and safety, Peters argued.

In addition, News 8 has reported on state investigators busting unlicensed cosmetologists for sanitary violations, such as using dirty files during a manicure.

In 2006, News 8 broke the story of a Fort Worth woman who died from an infection after a pedicure. Kimberly Kay Jackson's family sued and won.

Her family told us that deregulating dozens of professions would unnecessarily put the public at risk.

"I think it's disgusting," said Sue Jackson, Kimberly's mother-in-law. "I think you need to have some kind of law that requires you to pass certain things, and if you can't, you need to have your door shut."

Sue Jackson was a licensed cosmetologist for 25 years in Fort Worth, she said.

Licensed professionals add more than $20 million to the state's general fund every year, according to the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation and the Texas Board of Architectural Examiners.

Abbott's staff did not say how the state would make up for that loss of revenue.

"Our proposal will reduce fees on professionals, reduce expenditures by the state, and the savings will be passed on to consumers," Abbott's campaign told News 8.

"I think an unlicensed person can do, potentially, anything. But could they do it accurately, safely, and protect the interests of their clients? Hard to know," said Michelle Duncum of Faulkner Design Group.

Designers have fought deregulation twice in recent years and won. If Abbott is elected, they'll likely go on the defensive again, proving they not only make interiors stylish, but safe.


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