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PERMIT MANIA

Continuing its drive to make New York more business-friendly, the Pataki administration's Office of Regulatory Reform has launched a Web site designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the state's confounding permit requirements.

It is a useful site (http://www.nys-permits.org) that may end up serving a purpose beyond its immediate one.

The site is meant to help people opening a new business find out which state permits they need for specific types of enterprise, allowing them to perform their red-tape obligations from home or office and to avoid sometimes lengthy lines. It doesn't help with local permits, except to point out that it doesn't help with them, but even so, this is an effort that stands to make a difference in the relative ease with which businesses can take root in New York.

But the site may also have the additional and welcome effect of calling attention to the state's penchant for over-regulation. If it attracts enough notice, it could help to force the state to overhaul the Byzantine and sometimes costly permit requirements that can serve to discourage entrepreneurs from opening shop here.

For example, here are the permits the Web site says you would need to open a beauty salon that offers manicures and saunas as well as hair styling and coloring. You would need your Appearance Enhancement Business or Renter Licence, your Waxing License, your Nail Specialty License, your "Esthetics" License, your Natural Hair Styling License, your Cosmetology License, your Certificate of Authority to Collect Sales Tax and your Permit to Operate a Swimming Pool, that being your steam bath.

Any and all of these permits may be in some way defensible, but they are a cumulative and maddening disincentive to those who want to open a beauty parlor. The Office of Regulatory Reform has done good work for the state, but this Web site suggests how much more remains to be done. Perhaps it will serve to move that effort along.

By the way, in case you happen to be among the aforementioned demoralized beauticians, here's a tip: It is an altogether easier thing to open an escort service in New York than to give haircuts.

That questionable line of work also is listed on this full-service Web site and the only permit needed is the Certificate of Authority to Collect Sales Tax that will be generated by your, um, escorting activities. The site also helpfully directs the would-be escort provider to the Limitations on Certain Contracts Involving Social Referral Services and the Dating Service Consumer Bill of Rights.

Is this a great state, or what?

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