Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · June 30, 2020

Tallahassee, Fla.— Thousands of Floridians will find it easier to work now with Gov. Ron DeSantis signing HB 1193, the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act. The historic law repeals more occupational licensing laws than any licensing reform ever passed by any other state. The Institute for Justice (IJ), which advocates for licensing reform nationwide, applauds the governor and legislators on a well-timed move that should have lasting effects on workers in the Sunshine State.

“The outlook for jobs and entrepreneurship is brighter in the Sunshine State today,” said IJ Florida Office Managing Attorney Justin Pearson. “Now is the time to clear away the red tape that has stood in the way of Floridians looking for new opportunities. That is precisely what this much-needed reform does.”

All told, the new law either repeals or reforms over 30 licenses, including by reducing required educational hours for certain licenses. Highlights of the bill include:

  • Waiving the requirements of the Commercial Driver License for military service members with similar training and experience.
  • Exempting all hair braiders (including African-style hair braiders), nail polishers, hair wrappers, body wrappers, makeup artists, boxing announcers and boxing timekeepers from being required to obtain a license.
  • Creating universal recognition for barbers and cosmetologists licensed in other states.
  • Reducing required educational hours for cosmetology specialists and full barbers’ licenses.
  • Reforming, reducing or narrowing licensing requirements for landscape architects, diet coaches, certain types of construction subcontractors, alarm system installers and geologists.
  • Preventing the state from suspending licenses over unpaid student loans.

The law also includes a provision preventing Florida cities from banning food trucks or requiring operators to obtain an additional local license or pay additional fees in order to vend. Florida is the third state to create such a law, following in the steps of California and Arizona.

One reform IJ sought for nearly a decade was included: eliminating the interior design license. In 2009, three women filed a federal lawsuit with IJ challenging the constitutionality of the license, which required six years of education and experience and a two-year apprenticeship. Florida was one of only six states to license the occupation. Our suit didn’t eliminate all the requirements, but it did highlight the burdens of licensing. The required license has been replaced with a simpler registration requirement that allows registrants to offer more services.

“There was little reason for Florida to set such a high bar when most states didn’t require any license to be an interior designer,” said Eva Locke, one of the women involved in the lawsuit. “This has been a long time coming, and I am glad to see that our fight finally resulted in sensible reform. Interior design will now be open to many Floridians who lacked the resources and time to work through all the requirements.”

According to IJ research, Florida had much room for improvement in comparison to other states. The 2017 edition of “License to Work” found that Florida had the fifth most burdensome licensing laws in the nation. For instance, the state required African-style hair braiders to acquire a full cosmetology license, even though most cosmetology schools do not teach braiding.

There is also the potential for the reform to create substantial economic and job growth. The 2018 IJ study “At What Cost?” found that more than one in five Floridians require a license to legally work and estimated that Florida loses nearly 130,000 jobs annually because of its high licensing burden. A conservative measure of the economic value lost due to these regulations totaled nearly $460 million. All told, because of licensing, the Florida economy may lose $11.6 billion in “misallocated resources” annually.

“Especially now during the pandemic, states need to lower the barriers that keep people out of the workforce or discourage entrepreneurship,” said IJ President and General Counsel Scott Bullock. “Florida’s reform will fuel economic growth and open up opportunity to entry-level entrepreneurs throughout the state.”