The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, civil liberties law firm, is offering high school students in Florida a chance to win a $500 scholarship and the opportunity to help pass a law and increase economic opportunity in their state. The winning student will receive an all-expense-paid trip to the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee to meet with lawmakers and discuss his or her essay.
needs a government license to work.
All Americans have the right to economic liberty: the right to earn an honest living in the occupation of one's choice without unnecessary government interference. It stands at the heart of the American Dream. Unfortunately, that dream is under constant attack through arbitrary, burdensome or anticompetitive laws that require occupational licenses—essentially permissions slips from the government to work. The requirements for licensure can be an enormous burden and often force entrepreneurs to waste their valuable time and money to become licensed—or even make it impossible for them to work.
Young people entering the workforce are particularly disadvantaged by licensing regimes, along with minorities and women. For high school students already balancing classes, it's impossible to spare thousands of hours—literally years of their lives—in extra classes to be allowed to earn extra money working weekends in a beauty salon or doing odd jobs for a construction contractor. The result is workers who are needlessly kept out of the workforce.
Worse yet, these burdens too often have no connection at all to public health or safety. Instead, they are imposed simply to protect established businesses from economic competition. For example, in many states, hair braiders are required to obtain over 1,000 hours of education that has nothing to do with hair braiding and everything to do with limiting competition for established cosmetologists.
And the problem is growing. In 1950, about 5 percent of American workers needed an occupational license. Today that number is over 25 percent. Without these licenses, entrepreneurs can face stiff fines or even risk jail time.
IJ's landmark study, License to Work, measured for the first time the burdens that occupational licensing imposes on more than 100 low- and moderate-income occupations. Florida's occupational licensing regime is among the most restrictive in the nation. The state enforces burdensome laws that deter entry into 45 of the 102 low- and moderate-income occupations surveyed in the study. On average, breaking into one of these occupations in Florida requires $274 in fees, 603 days of education, over a year and a half of experience, and one exam. Barriers like these make it harder for people to find jobs and build new businesses that create jobs.
Explore License to Work's Florida profile
For a growing number of Americans, gainful employment no longer requires convincing only a potential employer or customer of their value. It requires also convincing the government. This barrier to an honest living makes entrepreneurship more difficult in general. Furthermore, it can be an effective bar to entering many low-income occupations for people with less access to financial capital or formal education. These laws are wrong—economically, morally and constitutionally. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to pursue the occupation of one's choosing and guarantees that consumers and employers, not legislators and bureaucrats, should decide who succeeds in which jobs. To expand economic opportunity and vindicate the basic constitutional right to economic liberty, IJ is dedicated to rolling back these unnecessary and harmful restrictions.
There's no denying it: Florida is addicted to licensing. The state's licensing laws are among the worst in the country. In License to Work, the state was found to have the 4th most burdensome requirements of all 50 states.
But Florida has unique advantages, too. A special rule of the state House of Representatives favors repealer bills. Repealer bills, or simply "repealers," are used to remove statutes that are outdated, redundant or otherwise unwanted. Repealers remove text from, and cannot add any text to, the state's statutes. Importantly, they do not count toward a representative's six-bill-per-session limit. These bills are traditionally used to remove obsolete laws; they can also be used to advance economic liberty in the state.
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