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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Commentary

Florida’s dirty dozen

BY ARI BARGIL AND
CLAUDIA MURRAY edenfield
Special to The Tampa Tribune

Published:

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Every year, the Florida Legislature passes about 300 new laws. And every year, the new regulations pile onto already existing ones, shutting out new competition or preventing entrepreneurs from starting or expanding their businesses. So many new laws are proposed each session that representatives, by rule, are prohibited from introducing more than six new laws per session.

Nowhere is overregulation more evident than in small-business regulation. “Florida’s Dirty Dozen,” released today by the Institute for Justice, highlights 12 laws in Florida that are burdensome and unfriendly to small businesses. A few of the laws are even unabashedly designed to prevent economic growth.

Regulations such as these have no business staying on the books. That’s why “The Dirty Dozen” calls for their elimination. Florida cannot claim to be friendly to small business and economic growth, while at the same time maintaining policies that undermine those very interests.

Occupational licensing laws are simply burdensome regulations passed by legislators to protect the pocketbooks of industry insiders. Would-be barbers must spend 1,200 hours of training at specialty schools, which can cost between $10,000-$15,000. Auctioneers are forced to complete an apprenticeship under an already licensed auctioneer or complete 80 hours of classroom instruction. And even after they complete unnecessary training, both groups must spend thousands of dollars on licensing exams and fees before they start work.

These regulations are often passed under the guise of “health and safety.” For example, thanks to heavy lobbying by the American Society of Interior Designers, Florida is one of only three states, along with the District of Columbia, that requires a license to practice interior design. ASID claims that the unlicensed practice of interior designer would contribute to 88,000 deaths per year. But the Florida Attorney General’s Office has admitted it has no evidence that interior design presents any genuine threat to the public.

Excessive educational requirements and supposed health and safety justifications are not the only ways special interests shut out competition. Not even our beer is safe from overregulation.

Florida bans growlers, which are large resealable containers consumers can buy and fill with fresh draft beer from a local brewery or tavern to keep at home. Small breweries use growlers to help develop a customer base because it allows them to sell more of their product without incurring the expense of setting up a full bottling facility. In states that allow growlers, the craft-beer industry is booming. In Florida, however, small producers are struggling to keep up. And that’s exactly how the large breweries want it: Two recent attempts to reform the law were derailed by industry lobbyists, a sobering reminder of the power of big business in Florida.

Even worse, these regulations are full of exemptions. For example, although most cosmetologists need a license to apply makeup, the law exempts those working at the makeup counter of large department stores or backstage on a movie set. Would-be funeral directors have to hold a valid embalmers license, yet already established funeral directors are excluded from complying. The result is fewer competitors, higher prices and less choice for consumers.

Every election cycle, Floridians are introduced (or re-introduced) to a crop of candidates who are eager to promote laws they passed, or would pass if elected. But sometimes the most effective action is getting out of the way. As Floridians continue to struggle to make ends meet, perhaps it is time to place more weight not on what our representatives have done, but on what they have undone.

Ari Bargil and Claudia Murray Edenfield are attorneys at the Institute for Justice Florida Chapter. The report can be found at www. ij.org/FlaDirtyDozen.

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