Business License Fees & Enforcement Going Up

November 30, 2016
Honolulu, HI

By Paul Drewes

For many, doing business in Hawaii means getting a professional and vocational license.

The number of licenses has shot up. So have fees so the state can catch up on enforcing our licensing laws.

Serenity and Massage provides a relaxing environment for a rubdown..There are soft sheets, candles and quiet music to add to the tranquility.

But for those wondering if the massage therapist will rub them the wrong way --

They should instead look for a business license on display, along with one for every masseuse.

"I got licensed because I wanted to legitimate and legal, and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing. If I am going to be working with someone's body, that is a very vulnerable space, and I'm sure they would want me to know what I am doing as well," said Serenity & Massage Manager Laura Anderson.

Massage is just one industry where Hawaii workers have to licensed.

47 other professions and vocations including barbers, real estate agents and veterinarians make up the 150,000 licenses issued annually. Licenses are required to protect the health, safety and welfare of consumers.

What does a license do? In the case of a general contractor, it not only ensures the worker knows how to do the job correctly, it also ensures those who do the hiring are covered when things go wrong.

"The insurance piece is very important. In case someone gets injured on your job site, or if anything goes wrong with the job site, the licensed contractor's insurance will cover any incidents that occur on the property," said Daria Loy-Goto, with the State's Regulated Industries Complaints Office.

Each year, RICO investigators take hundreds of actions against unlicensed workers and those in violation of their license, but recently they've noted a disturbing trend.

"In the past decade, the office has seen an increase in more serious kinds of conduct: theft, diversion of drugs, and improper touching in the healthcare industry," said Loy-Goto.

While the number of cases has been steadily increasing, licensing fees had stayed at the same level for decades. This year, an increase, which raised costs by about 30%, a difference many will notice when it is time to renew.

"it was more than I expected, I have a personal budget. I had $120 set aside for it, but it was more like $146," said Anderson.

The additional money will go toward upgrading the state's on-line computer system and fill 8 positions, including more investigators.

"A field investigator will go out and subpoena records, talk to witnesses, conduct a traditional investigation to determine if there are any licensing law violations. From there the matter may be turned over to a RICO staff attorney," said Loy-Goto.

Now, when it comes to massage licensees, investigators can also issue citations for certain violations on the spot.

"It is going to allow us to cover more ground, with the people we have," said Loy-Goto.

Citations can also help weed out unlicensed workers and illegal prostitution parlors that have become a sore spot for the massage industry.

"As long as we follow the requirements, it shouldn't be a problem for licensed establishments. And they are not that hard," added Anderson.

Next year, legislation may be added to allow investigators to issue immediate citations for cosmetology violations as well.

If you have an issue with licensed businesses or unlicensed workers call the State Office of Consumer Protection.