George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Flor⁠i⁠da Today: Gues⁠t⁠ column: Fla. bus⁠i⁠ness cl⁠i⁠ma⁠t⁠e’s b⁠i⁠g flaw: occupa⁠t⁠⁠i⁠onal l⁠i⁠cens⁠i⁠ng, regula⁠t⁠⁠i⁠on

By: The James Madison Institute / 2014

In recent years, thousands of Americans have moved from states plagued by high taxes and stifling regulations to states such as Florida and Texas, where entrepreneurship is encouraged and residents get to keep more of what they earn.Even so, a study newly released by The Institute for Justice (IJ) and The James Madison Institute (JMI) titled, “Florida’s ‘Dirty Dozen:’ Twelve Repealers That Can Boost Business, Create Jobs, and Change Florida’s Economic Policy for the Better,” highlights an area ripe for reform. Florida should change its occupational licensing and regulation to benefit career seekers and consumers.Consider, for instance, the plight of an ambitious young woman we’ll call “Maria.” She’s a recent high school graduate. Her goal in life is to pursue a craft that she has learned to love: doing hairstyling and makeup.Maria’s goals include eventually opening her own salon. Yet she’s also realistic. Although she has practiced her craft, cutting hair and giving makeup tips to friends and family, she knows she’ll need more training.But imagine her surprise when she learns she must undergo 1,200 hours of instruction at a beauty school, where the cost for tuition, fees, books and supplies — at one of Florida’s least expensive providers — tops $16,425. Pursuing her dream means going into debt to pay for training far in excess of what reasonably should be required.Preserving such obstacles is probably popular among those already working in that field because it excludes potential competitors. No doubt it’s also popular among the schools that provide the requisite hundreds of hours of instruction.At the same time, it’s a disadvantage not only to aspiring cosmetologists, but also to consumers who see prices inflated and their choices diminished.Unfortunately, in Florida, these kinds of career-entry obstacles are not unique to cosmetology. In fact, they extend across a wide array of occupations. This new study highlights a “dirty dozen” that IJ regards as among the worst.JMI, which for many years has battled the kinds of regulatory overkill that mar Florida’s otherwise excellent business climate, agrees that the issue deserves immediate attention from the Legislature.Mind you, neither JMI nor IJ opposes reasonable laws, rules, and regulations to protect the public’s health and safety. Nobody’s freedom is unreasonably impaired, for instance, when dangerous substances are banned from use in our everyday products.Unfortunately, governments too often go far beyond what’s necessary to protect the public’s health and safety. Nowhere is this more evident than in the regulation of various occupations.Indeed, public officials too often use “safeguarding the public health” or “protecting consumers” as a pretext for allowing entrenched interests to create obstacles for potential competitors, thereby gaining an unfair advantage in what ought to be a free marketplace.Other groups are monitoring Florida and are keenly aware of the negative impact of these types of regulations. The Mercatus Center at Virginia’s George Mason University recently published a paper outlining such issues in Florida.The Mercatus report highlights a need to reassess Florida’s regulatory processes to ensure that new regulations don’t inhibit our state’s attractiveness to individuals and businesses. As the Mercatus study notes:“If a regulatory action does not address a clear problem, then the action is unlikely to fix any problem (and may create more problems). And if alternatives are not formally considered, it is difficult to conclude that the chosen regulatory approach will accomplish the intended outcome and will do so at the least cost.”The Mercatus analysis includes more than a dozen studies of occupational licensing and regulations. In nearly every case, the prices of goods or services supplied by the profession increased — sometimes as much as 100 percent — as a result of regulation.This strongly suggests a need to reassess the processes that lawmakers use in dealing with occupational licensing and regulations. Too often, the current processes lead to overreaching regulations that stifle entrepreneurship, raise the cost of living, and makes it harder for ambitious young people such as “Maria” to achieve their goals.