Focus on Florida
Legislators taking on arduous occupational licensing issues
So could cutting and wrapping hair, manicuring fingernails, auctioneering property, landscaping, interior design and timekeeping at a boxing match.
If you want to earn money or start a business in dozens of job categories, Florida requires a state-approved license – and they don’t come cheaply.
Barbers are required to complete 1,200 hours of training – equivalent to 25 hours a week for one year – to be eligible for licensure. Applicants then must pass an exam and pay a $223 fee.
A cosmetology license requires 1,200 training hours at an approved state Board of Cosmetology school, which costs between $5,000 and $20,000, according to BeautySchools.com.
Interior designers need a combined six years of board-approved education and work experience under a licensed designer, then pass a three-part exam costing $1,065 to legally design commercial spaces.
Working without a license has its own costs: up to $500 fines per offense, restraining orders or court ordered injunctions against performing undocumented labor activities.
Critics say such regulations discourage would-be workers, and state lawmakers are considering a bureaucratic downsizing.
A bill that would rollback red-tape for nearly two-dozen professions passed an important House appropriations subcommittee on Tuesday at the Florida Capitol. The bill was approved with bipartisan support, 12-2.
“We’re trying to lower barriers in order to create jobs,” said Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello, the bill’s sponsor.
The Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm, pegs Florida as the fourth most restrictive state in the country with respect to occupational licensing regulations. In a study called License to Work, it identified 45 of 102 low-and-moderate income jobs as having burdensome licensing requirements.
“Occupational licenses, which are essentially permission slips from the government, routinely stand in the way of honest enterprise,” the nonprofit firm says. “Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition.”
‘Protect the public welfare’
About a dozen industry representatives appeared before the legislative committee and stated independently that Florida’s occupational regulations ensure public safety and create jobs themselves.
“We regulate not to keep people out of business, or to create barriers to business, we regulate to defend the public and protect the public welfare,” said Owen Chad Johnson, secretary and treasurer of the Florida Auctioneers Association.
David Roberts, of the American Society of Interior Designers, told lawmakers that they’ll put people out of business if they deregulate. Stephanie Borras, the owner of two Tallahassee salons, said the bill would increase the quantity of workers, but not the quality.
Curtis Austin, executive director of the Florida Association of Secondary Schools and Colleges, said the bill’s proposal to reduce cosmetology training from 1,200 hours to 600 hours would cause a health crisis.
“We are moving in the direction, not of red states and blue states, but in the direction of Turkey,” Austin told committee members. “If you look at those places where they deregulate these issues in cosmetology, up to 85 percent of people contract skin diseases.”
The committee’s chairman, Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said he thought some of the arguments made sense and some did not.
According to bill’s staff analysis, the state Board of Cosmetology issued 28 disciplinary orders against licensed hair braiders, hair wrappers, and body wrappers during the 2012- 2015 fiscal years.
“These actions generally did not involve consumer injury but were the technical scope of practice violations,” such as practicing with an expired license or failing to timely renew a license, the analysis states.
Beshears’ bill would eliminate all Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation restrictions against interior designers, hair braiders, hair and body wrappers, boxing announcers and boxing timekeepers, and would reduce mandatory training hours for barbers, nail specialists, and facial specialists.
The Department of Regulation would no longer regulate labor organizations, business agents, talent agencies, and auctioneers, but established industry standards and civil and criminal actions would still apply.
Architects, landscapers, geologists and asbestos abatement contractors would no longer be required to obtain certificates of authorization in addition to obtaining their licenses.
Rep. James Grant, R-Tampa, an outspoken critic of occupational regulations, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.
“I believe there are 366 occupational licensures in the state Florida,” Grant said. “I’ve yet to be compelled by any argument that any form of license or regulation is in any way as significant to make a consumer whole as an insurance policy.”
Insurance premiums are much less expensive than an entire bureaucratic scheme, he said.
‘A bunch of arbitrary hoops’
Grant also questioned the licensure education industry.
“One of the things aligned with occupational licenses that I have a very keen interest in exploring is the number of tax dollars that we spend subsidizing higher education for curriculums that are a requirement,” he said.
Lisa Waxman, chair of Florida State University’s interior design program, told lawmakers there are 19 design programs in Florida and urged the committee to “keep things as they are.”
“Florida is a model for the rest of the country,” she said.
Justin Pearson, a senior attorney for the Institute for Justice, offered that Florida is one of only four states in the country that requires a license for interior designers.
Inconsistencies were also noted. Emergency Medical Technicians, or EMTs, need 34 days of training, while massage therapists are required to complete 117 days of training.
“I represent first-generation Americans, minorities, and lower-income individuals who want to pursue the American dream,” said Pearson. “But they can’t take a year off of work to jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops.”
Sal Nuzzo, policy director at the conservative James Madison Institute, called the bill a “good first step,” and said that lowering employment barriers would help released prison inmates find work.
“What are the trades these individuals are learning when they’re incarcerated? They’re learning how to be barbers, cosmetologists, and electricians,” Nuzzo said.
In his closing remarks, Beshears said his legislation would help people who can’t afford to pay $5,000 and take 1,200 hours of training before securing a job. “This is about giving that person an opportunity,” he said.
The bill has been referred to the House Commerce Committee. A companion Senate bill passed its first committee stop and is slated for review in the Senate Judiciary Committee.