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The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a North Carolina case over whether U.S. states can delegate the regulation of professions such as dentistry, plumbing, cosmetology and more to boards of practitioners drawn from those occupations.

The issue set for a hearing before the justices Tuesday is whether state-established boards such as those for dentists, veterinarians, doctors and cosmetologists can regulate their occupations without fear of running afoul of federal antitrust laws.

The specific case before the court involves a 2007 decision by the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners warning operators of teeth-whitening kiosks in malls and tanning salons that they were practicing dentistry without a license. The Federal Trade Commission has said that state's dental board engaged in unfair competition in the market for teeth-whitening services.

"Almost everyone from a plumber to the best heart surgeon in the country is affected by one of these boards. Anyone who uses their services is affected by these boards," said Lisa Soronen, executive director of the State & Local Legal Center. That group represents public officials from governors to city council members.

The number of occupations that set educational requirements and other qualifications for work in a field ranges from dozens to hundreds, depending on the state. The issue is becoming increasingly important as more jobs in the growing service sector require licenses.


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