Florida Interior Design - Release: 4-28-11

Institute for Justice

   




On Tuesday, April 26, it was reported that the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) and the International Interior Designers Association (IIDA) sent a joint letter to President Haridopolos and Speaker Cannon regarding the proposal to repeal Florida’s interior design law. The letter is largely fictitious and, as usual, provides no supporting data or references.

We believe that important policy decisions should not be made on the basis of unsubstantiated assertions or outright falsehoods. Accordingly, the Institute for Justice offers this response to the ASID/IIDA letter, complete with supporting data from which readers may draw their own conclusions.

ASID/IIDA Claim: “Currently interior designers are not required to be licensed by the state and are part of an already unregulated profession.”

Response:  This claim is demonstrably false and contradicts ASID’s own statements in federal court.

 

  • Florida Statute § 481.223(1)(a) states that a person may not “[p]ractice interior design unless the person is a registered interior designer . . . .”  Violation of that provision is a crime punishable by up to one year in prison.

 

  • The Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website has a page that asks “What services require a state of Florida license?  Interior Designers.” It goes on to explain that “If you are going to hire someone to design the interior of a commercial structure he/she needs to be licensed.”

 

  • In a brief submitted to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in 2010, ASID described the issue as whether “Florida’s ban on the unlicensed practice of non-residential interior design” violates the U.S. Constitution and concluded by arguing that “Florida has a legitimate constitutional right to mandate that only a licensed interior designer . . . be permitted to practice interior design.”

 

  • The Board of Architecture and Interior Design has pursued disciplinary actions against more than 600 people and businesses for providing or offering to provide “interior and commercial design services” without a license and advises people that “only persons or firms licensed by the State of Florida may engage in the . . . activities” of “offering interior and commercial design services.”

 

ASID/IIDA Claim: “Deregulation will eliminate commercial interior designers and create a monopoly for design services.”  “ [R]egistered designers . . . will no longer be allowed to sign and seal construction documents.”

 

Response: This claim is grossly misleading because it fails to provide necessary context.

 

  • Under current Florida law, interior designers are not authorized to sign and seal construction documents that affect structural, mechanical, ingress/egress, or other “lifesafety” systems.  Construction documents that do not affect lifesafety systems do not have to be sealed by an architect, engineer, or other building professional and may be submitted by non-licensed persons at the discretion of local building officials.

 

  • Notably absent is any context or support for the tacit assertion that the livelihoods of commercial designers depend significantly on their ability to stamp and seal construction documents.  In reality, interior designers are rarely called upon to sign and seal construction documents for permitting purposes on commercial projects.

 

  • Any concerns about the ability of interior designers to sign and seal construction documents can easily be addressed by other means than occupational licensure.  Such language has been provided to the Legislature and could easily be implemented with support from ASID and IIDA, which they have so far withheld, presumably because their true concern is not signing and sealing construction documents but maintaining their government-backed monopoly on commercial design services in Florida.

 

ASID/IIDA Claim: “Deregulation will cost Florida businesses tens of millions of dollars in increased costs to the consumer and lost revenues to the state” and “Florida businesses will suffer by paying an additional $50 million per year due to the elimination of competition for interior design.”

 

Response: These figures appear to be entirely made up.

 

  • In contrast, a study performed by economists at Kenyon College called Designed to Exclude concluded that interior design regulations drive up prices, limit choices for consumers and disproportionately exclude minorities and older, mid-career switchers from the interior design field.

 

  • The number of state-licensed interior designers in Florida has been steadily diminishing; the current figure provided by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation is 2,560 active registrations out of more than 5,800 that have been issued since 1994.  The Department reports that approximately 60% of those 2,560 interior designers were grandfathered-in and do not possess the requisite statutory credentials for licensing.

 

  • Eliminating unnecessary statutory prerequisites for practicing interior design—prerequisites that most state-licensed interior designers do not even possess themselves—will expand opportunities and enable all interior designers to compete on a level playing field, just as they do in the 47 states that do not license the practice of interior design.

 

Conclusion

The letter submitted by ASID and IIDA to President Haridopolis and Speaker Cannon contains demonstrable falsehoods and unsupported assertions. We hope and expect that these groups will be asked to explain their misrepresentations and document their assertions and that their credibility will be judged according to the response they give—or fail to give.


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