Oklahoma consumers would benefit from fewer burdensome state regulations

The Oklahoman Editorial Published: August 27, 2012

LEGISLATIVE policy discussions often focus on taxes, but eliminating needless regulations could also benefit entrepreneurs and create jobs. A case in point is the Oklahoma law that says only licensed funeral home directors can sell caskets.

How are the skills of a funeral director related to selling caskets? They're not. In most states, a wide range of vendors sell caskets without harm to consumers. Oklahoma is one of only a handful of states with this restriction.

Sadly, this regulation costs Oklahoma jobs and limits consumer choice. Kim Powers Bridges tried unsuccessfully to challenge the law in court several years ago. Basically, the court affirmed that such laws aren't necessarily unconstitutional. Bridges has since moved to Tennessee and now oversees a company that operates in nine states and employs 100 people with a payroll of $2 million.

Those jobs and related tax revenue could be benefiting Oklahomans, if not for one law. The state's funeral home industry defends the restriction as a consumer protection measure, but we're unaware of any problems in the 40-plus states that don't restrict casket sales.

Oklahoma's liquor laws are another example of regulation run amok. State restrictions on who can sell what, when and where, are legendary. Consumers can buy wine at grocery stores in other states; in Oklahoma, you have to go to a liquor store. Why not let the free market and consumer choice determine who succeeds in the liquor business instead of having the state limit competition?

A federal judge declared similar restrictions in Kentucky to be unconstitutional. According to the Food with Wine Coalition, 36 states allow customers to buy wine and food at the same location. Oklahoma remains an outlier.

“License to Work,” a report by the libertarian Institute for Justice, notes other questionable Oklahoma regulations. The report states that Oklahoma is one of just seven states licensing packagers — egg packers, to be specific. Are you relieved that the state of Oklahoma protects you from rogue egg packers?

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