By: Sal Nuzzo
Being in policy work for a think tank heavily engaged in both Florida and in Washington, D.C., I often find myself caught in a “bubble” of sorts, where it’s easy for me to see the issues facing policymakers being the single most important things on the minds of 21 million Floridians, at all times.
Realistically, most citizens try to pay as little attention to government and public policy as possible. In many ways, public policy can be like the plumbing — we don’t pay much attention to it until it malfunctions. And when it does, it’s difficult to avoid.
Over the past 20 years, our elected leaders have done a tremendous job advancing limited government, market-oriented policy and prosperity. Floridians have enjoyed a relatively limited government footprint in our lives. That has meant an acknowledgment of government distortions in the marketplace, a commitment to free enterprise and a concentration on ensuring that Florida’s prosperity continues into the future.
While in a state like Florida it can appear challenging to find ways structural policy can improve, there are things that our Legislature can and should be examining as we move into 2019 and beyond. Being liberty-minded means being vigilant and ever watchful for the never-ceasing and oppressive overreach of government. That takes effort and is something we have in our mission at The James Madison Institute. Two things in particular to consider:
• The Right to Earn a Living Act: Florida’s occupational licensing system has consistently been ranked as one of the worst in the United States. In the 1950s only 5 percent of occupations in the United States required a license. Today, the ratio is roughly 1 in 4. The Right to Earn a Living Act rights the wrongs of the current legal landscape by putting the burden of proof back where it belongs — on regulators who restrict economic freedom, instead of job-seekers. Whenever bureaucrats restrict people’s right to use their skills to provide for themselves and their families, the act requires government to show that there is a true public need for that restriction. If government cannot prove that regulation is necessary to serve the public, people are presumed free to pursue the occupation of their choice.
• The REINS Act: For several years, Congress has debated a law titled Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny — commonly referred to as the REINS Act. Enacting this common-sense reform in Washington would help stem the tide of a $2 trillion weight sitting on the U.S. economy — the approximate cost of regulatory compliance every year. While Congress hasn’t been successful, there is nothing prohibiting Florida from leading the way.
In addition to the federal code, Florida businesses are obligated to understand and comply with almost 174,000 restrictions contained in the Florida Administrative Code. While the Legislature has the authority to repeal existing state agency rules, legislative approval isn’t necessary for the promulgation of new rules. Given the complexity of regulatory issues and the brevity of the legislative session, the power to repeal is insufficient to relieve the growing weight of regulation. To stem the tide of executive agency rules and bureaucratic red tape, a Florida version of the REINS Act would be a helpful policy relief for small businesses throughout the state.
Florida has by and large gotten many things right with respect to public policy that promotes job growth and prosperity. We should look at the monumental election of 2018 as an opportunity to forge ahead with even more innovative concepts to promote the next generation of prosperity.
Nuzzo is the vice president of policy at The James Madison Institute in Tallahassee.