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Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers

By   /   September 21, 2015  /   No Comments

Part 55 of 105 in the series Nanny State of the Week

A regulatory panel in Washington, D.C., could vote this week on a series of new licensing requirements for personal trainers, supposedly in an effort to promote public health and safety through government nannyism.

But a closer look at the panel charged with making the new rules exposes the real reason why regulatory boards flex their muscles with regulatory schemes like this one.

Shutterstock image

FLEXING THE REGULATORY MUSCLE: The Washington, D.C., Board of Physical Therapists, which is writing the new rules, just happens to be composed of five members – four of which are required by statute to be licensed physical therapists. And that board has now been given the power to regulate – potentially even to shut down – businesses that are in direct competition with the board’s own members.

As Watchdog reported last week, Council of the District of Columbia recently empowered an obscure regulatory panel, the Board of Physical Therapy, to create a new set of licensing rules for personal trainers working in the nation’s capital. A vote on the new rules is expected to take place at the city council’s meeting Tuesday night.

The exact rules are still unclear, but all personal trainers would be required to register with the mayor’s office and pay a yet-to-be-determined fee. An early draft of the rules would have required that all personal trainers have a four-year degree.

Like many licensing and regulatory schemes, this effort by the city government in D.C. is being pitched as being in the name of public health and safety — but there’s really a more sinister motivation at play.

Personal training has been an explosive area of growth for entrepreneurs. There are more than 241,000 fitness trainers and aerobics instructors in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. The Washington, D.C., metro area has more than 5,800 people working in the industry, the third highest total for any metropolitan area in the nation. According to the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association, an industry group, the United States has more than 34,400 health clubs, a 28 percent increase over the past decade.

All those personal trainers are competition for physical therapists.

The Washington, D.C., Board of Physical Therapists, which is writing the new rules, just happens to be composed of five members — four of which are required by statute to be licensed physical therapists.

That board has now been given the power to regulate — potentially even to shut down — businesses that are in direct competition with the board’s own members.

That’s not government of the people, by the people or for the people.

It’s a niche special interest using the regulatory power of the government to build a protective wall around its own interests, at the expense of other business owners and the general public. It’s a cartel.

There’s no shortage of evidence that licensing requirements stifle the growth of new businesses and protect entrenched interests. That’s not a side effect of protecting the public’s health and safety; that’s the reason why these rules exist. Protecting the public’s health and safety — if licensing rules even do that, which is a matter up for debate — is merely the marketing strategy.

Even the Obama Administration, which has no shortage of love for government regulations, recently acknowledged that licensing schemes are a bad idea. In a report released in July, the White House warned that excessive occupational licensing rules were limiting the growth of jobs and economic opportunity. It encouraged state and local governments to cut back on the red tape surrounding some professions.

The city government in D.C. apparently didn’t read that report.

When and if personal trainers are swept into the maelstrom of government regulation in Washington, D.C., they will have plenty of company. According to data compiled by The Economist, the city already requires a license for at least 40 percent of all jobs, including interior designers and tour guides.

That’s right, you can’t point to the Lincoln Memorial and explain the significance of the larger-than-life marble man seated inside it without first getting permission from bureaucrats.

And soon, you won’t be able to help someone sweat off a few pounds without one either.

Part of 105 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
  49. Nanny State of the Week: Town officials mandate mowing
  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
  51. Nanny State: Despite menu nannies, Americans still fat!
  52. Nanny State of the Week: New York City’s ban on Styrofoam hurts businesses, consumers
  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
  56. Nanny State of the Week: Hammock bans mean no hanging out on college campuses
  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
  58. Nanny State of the Week: Pols want to ban daily fantasy sports
  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
  60. Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only
  61. Nanny State of the Week: Governments lag behind the public on orca captivity ban
  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
  68. Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet
  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans
  81. Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates
  82. Nanny State of the Week: CFPB knows what is best for your personal finances
  83. Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains
  84. Nanny State of the Week: Florida couple still fighting for their vegetable garden
  85. Nanny State of the Week: State lawmakers to decide where you can get an Uber in Boston
  86. Nanny State of the Week: Businesses can’t sell parking spaces to Braves fans
  87. Nanny State of the Week: OK, everybody’s foam toys, out of the pool
  88. Nanny State of the Week: Get out of the pool!
  89. Nanny State of the Week: Common sense goes to the dogs in Phoenix
  90. Nanny State Of The Week: It’s nanny-on-nanny in Portland pot dispute
  91. Nanny State of the Week: Your pool isn’t cool
  92. Nanny State of the Week: You can’t be trusted to rent to your family
  93. Nanny State of the Week: Protecting pub crawlers from themselves
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  97. Nanny State of the Week: No property rights without paperwork
  98. Nanny State of the Week: Chicken nannies hatch new regulations
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  100. Nanny State of the Week: Silence is golden in Worcester
  101. Nanny State of the Week: Land regulation trampling on cultural history
  102. Nanny State of the Week: New Jersey’s great leaf-blowing war
  103. Nanny State of the Week: New York bans homesharing ads
  104. Nanny State of the Week: Food truck destruction by the health nannies
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Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed listicle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87 and reach him at [email protected]