Charter schools are the gateway drug for the billionaire Koch Brothers-funded lobbying organization known as Americans for Prosperity.

Since successfully getting the West Virginia Legislature to pass — along party lines — charter school legislation in 2019, now this powerful and well-funded lobbying organization has developed a dedicated core group of Mountain State lawmakers who will carry the water for them on their next issue — occupational licensing reform.

It’s their template, if you will. This is their strategy in every state where they have a foothold.

What their real goal is, is to chip away at institutions, such as government, until the government is left without relevance in modern society.

The tactics deployed by AFP appear nonpartisan and nonthreatening and they use neutral language, such as the word reform.

In most states, AFP begins by attacking — under the guise of reform, because, hey, we all like reform, right — something simple as hair braiding. Most licensing requirements also come with a certain number of required training hours.

While we agree it is ludicrous for some states to require as many as 600 hours of training (which can be costly and possibly result in student loan debt) for occupations such as hair braiding, not all regulations and requirements for licensing are bad.

We need physicians and pilots who are trained and skilled and knowledgeable of their occupations for the simple health and safety concerns we all have when we take a plane or go in for surgery.

So, the question becomes, ‘Where does it end?’ What is AFP’s real goal and will the elimination of occupational licensing create jobs for West Virginians as they claim?

And any use of the words “job creation” in a state with one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation is surely one way to look like a legislative hero back home in your district with the voters. So, any lawmaker who votes against such “reform” is going to be labeled as a job-killer by his foes.

AFP sells lawmakers on the idea that by removing licensing requirements for cosmetologists, more people will enter the field of cosmetology and the cost for getting your dye job will go down. Well, in states where this drum has been beaten, the costs have not dropped and their questionable view of economics doesn’t hold water.

And there’s another aspect of AFP’s so-called reforms. By removing training requirements, this will kill jobs at technical colleges in West Virginia that teach cosmetology. This is something that doesn’t seem to be addressed in their march to “reform.”

West Virginia has one of the lowest rates of participation in the workforce in the nation. Perhaps that is something that needs to be addressed by lawmakers, rather than chipping away at the government’s role using pre-fabbed laws that have been passed in other states because of the money and cache of lobbyists funded by industrialists.

And as Americans were warned in the 1960s that marijuana was the gateway to other forms of drug abuse, occupational licensing is just the beginning of a larger goal.

Government is not perfect, but solid laws that will bring about needed change should come from the people, not written by a lobbying organization with national reach, deep pockets and templated cookie-cutter laws forced on every state as if they are new and exciting ideas.

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