Occupational licensing reform percolating in Florida

February 02, 2017 | By CALEB TROTTER

Opponents of burdensome occupational licensing laws in Florida may soon have reason to celebrate. Two bills were recently filed in the Florida legislature that would bring some mild, but welcome relief to Floridians seeking to earn a living.

In recent years, the difficulties faced by military spouses to receive license reciprocity when they move to a new state has increasingly been addressed. Briefly, due to the patchwork of occupational licensing requirements from state to state, when people with licenses move to a new state, they often must start the licensing process over or complete additional requirements just to keep working in their chosen profession. Because military spouses tend to move from state to state more often than others, this burden disproportionately impacts them.

Today, HB 615 was filed by Rep. Renner in the Florida House of Representatives. The bill would, among other things, require Florida licensing boards to give licenses to military members and their spouses so long as they possess a valid occupational license from another state. So, for example, an interior designer with a Nevada license would be able to obtain a Florida interior design license without having to endure Florida’s burdensome process for obtaining the license from scratch (and yes, there are still a few states that license interior designers). This change in the law would save military members and their spouses a significant amount of time and money, and benefit them and their future customers and clients.

Another aspect of HB 615 would waive fees for obtaining a license paid by military spouses and low-income individuals. Because high rates of occupational licensure contribute to entrenched poverty by preventing people who can’t afford licensing fees from starting businesses or entering certain professions, limiting those fees should decrease the number of people precluded from obtaining a license.

A second bill, SB 330, was filed last month by Sen. Steube in the Florida Senate. In criticizing state occupational licensing schemes, what is sometimes given less attention are the various additional layers of regulation created by individual municipalities. For example, “lawn maintenance workers in Jacksonville have to pay $200 a year to work, Tampa photographers must pay $174 just to earn money by taking pictures, and interior decorators are required pay $402 in Palm Beach.” These additional requirements can quickly add up for professionals who work in multiple towns and already must meet state requirements. As a result, some may forego entering a profession with too many upfront costs, and others will just pass on the costs to their customers, resulting in higher prices.

SB 330 would reduce this problem by banning any new business license fees or taxes at the municipal and county level, and would cap existing fees and taxes at $25. That would stop the spread of patchwork licensing regulation in Florida and helpfully minimize the existing burdens.

True, these are modest proposals. But as more and more bills keep popping up across the country to address the many problems with occupational licensing, I am optimistic that lawmakers are beginning to more fully understand the value of economic liberty and how licensing prohibits it from flourishing.