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On December 14, 2020, President Donald J. Trump issued an Executive Order on Increasing Economic and Geographic Mobility. The complete order and details are listed here: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-order-increasing-economic-geographic-mobility/.

The aforementioned order notes:

Section 1. Policy and Principles. As expressed in Executive Order 13777 of February 24, 2017 (Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda), it is the policy of the United States to alleviate unnecessary regulatory burdens placed on the American people. Overly burdensome occupational licensing requirements can impede job creation and slow economic growth, which undermines our Nation’s prosperity and the economic well‑being of the American people. Such regulations can prevent American workers and job seekers from earning a living, maximizing their personal and economic potential, and achieving the American Dream. The purpose of this order is to reduce the burden of occupational regulations in order to promote the free practice of commerce, lower consumer costs, and increase economic and geographic mobility, including for military spouses.

In essence, the federal government is (currently) telling states and other regulatory agencies to review, and reduce or eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing. This should have the attention of the auctioneer community.

Currently, only about one-half of states require a statewide license to be an auctioneer. Well over half of the auctioneers in the United States have at least one state-issued auctioneer license. However, there’s been a trend in the last few years where states are looking to eliminate some occupational licensing including auctioneer licenses.

As Institute for Justice Director of Strategic Research Dr. Dick Carpenter points out in this video, in the 1950’s only 1 in 20 workers required an occupational license to work. By 2012, 1 in 3 workers needed an occupational license to work. He and his organization advocate for less regulation in this regard:

We wrote in 2019 about this same issue, with my home state of Ohio directing that occupational licensing generally should be, “a policy of last resort.”  In other words, license only if you must and there is no other way to ensure public safety. https://mikebrandlyauctioneer.wordpress.com/2019/01/21/auctioneer-licensing-might-be-changing/.

Licensing for auctioneers in any one state or jurisdiction can be good in that it often mandates pre-license training and continuing education. However, licensing can also be bad as it can create an undue and/or unreasonable burden to business development and economic growth. If there’s been any trend lately, it’s been less licensing.

Certainly, most licensed auctioneers advocate for licensing and most unlicensed auctioneers advocate for no licensing. Those with a license may not want immediate competition from those with little or no training — and those without licenses don’t want a license requirement because they feel it’s unnecessary and don’t want to now suddenly have to take training and pay fees given their considerable field experience.

From my expert witness experience, I see far more auctioneer misbehavior in non-license states. It seems clear the training and education coupled with the risk of losing the license results in better behavior. Yet, there isn’t a great amount of auctioneer malfeasance anywhere in the United States, licensed or not.

So far as protecting the public, I’m not convinced the licensing agencies do a really good job in this regard, and the public can always sue for damages if and when they are material. Auctioneer licensing may indirectly help prevent problems but doesn’t appear to take solving problems quite as seriously.

This will be interesting to watch, as occupational (auctioneer) licensing is more closely examined to see if the costs of licensing auctioneers is more or less than the benefit of licensing auctioneers. The assumption that any and all occupational licensing is good is waning across the United States.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, CAS, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, RES Auction Services, and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Distinguished Faculty at Hondros College, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School, and an Instructor at the National Auctioneers Association’s Designation Academy and Western College of Auctioneering. He is faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University and is approved by The Supreme Court of Ohio for attorney education.