George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da governmen⁠t⁠ should no⁠t⁠ overreach w⁠i⁠⁠t⁠h occupa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠onal l⁠i⁠censes

By: Dr. J. Robert McClure / 2018

J. Robert McClure, Your Turn

On the scale of things ordinary Americans follow intently, the nature and structure of government is pretty far down the list. Government structure is like plumbing – we don’t pay much attention to it until it malfunctions. And when it does, it’s difficult to ignore.

And while state-level governance can be “out of sight, out of mind,” the future of how we govern our great state is on the table this upcoming election.

While we largely get things right in how we govern, there are always ways we can improve; being liberty-minded means being ever watchful for the oppressive overreach of government.

Time and again, research has shown the best way to combat poverty is through gainful employment. A job provides purpose, puts a person on a path to becoming a productive and taxpaying member of society, and allows for societal engagement in numerous ways.

In this arena Florida has succeeded — not because of its regulatory system, but despite it. Recent studies from the Institute for Justice and the Institute for Law and Liberty – complemented by a 2018 policy study from the James Madison Institute – present a challenge for our policy makers. Florida’s occupational licensing system has consistently been ranked as one of the worst in the United States. In the 1950s, only five percent of occupations in the U.S. required a license. Today, the number is roughly 25 percent.

And while many are reasonable, like accountants and doctors, there are countless examples of onerous licensing requirements that have detrimental effects on those most desperately attempting to achieve productive careers.

Licensing requirements for cosmetologists, massage therapists and many other professions put overwhelming burdens on those from lower incomes, single mothers and individuals with prior criminal histories trying to escape the cycle of poverty and crime. Massage therapists in Florida must train for 117 days, whereas emergency medical technicians, who literally hold life in their hands, must only train for 34 days.

Fortunately for Florida’s policymakers, a road map for change exists. 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 the regulators who restrict economic freedom, instead of on the job-seeker.

Whenever bureaucrats restrict people’s right to use their skills to provide for themselves and their families, the act requires government to show there is a true public need for that restriction. If a bureaucrat wants to regulate the act of hair braiding, he or she must present a compelling case as to why government and not some other mechanism of regulation needs to be the default. If the government cannot prove that the regulation is necessary to serve the public, people are presumed free to pursue the occupation of their choice. In 2017, Arizona became the first state to enact the Right to Earn a Living Act when Gov. Ducey signed the law.

Florida has gotten many things right with respect to public policy that promotes job growth and prosperity, but not this. We should look at the monumental election of 2018 as an opportunity to forge ahead with more innovative concepts, like the Right to Earn a Living Act, to promote the next generation of prosperity.

Dr. J. Robert McClure III is president and CEO of the James Madison Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Tallahassee devoted to research and education on public policy issues.