FL’s special interest protections snuffing out entrepreneurs


By William Patrick | Florida Watchdog

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Government regulations often have negative affects on businesses. Sometimes, that’s by design.

LOCKED OUT: Despite her college best, Eva Locke was effectively barred from starting her own interior design business.

Ask Eva Locke.

Locke, a Florida resident and Tulane University graduate, wanted to open an interior design business. She returned to school, earned an associate degree from Palm Beach Community College— learning about aesthetics, problem solving and interior space planning— but ran into a problem.

Under Florida law, Locke, and others like her, can’t legally design commercial spaces — not even small offices — without a license.

Before becoming an “interior designer,” Locke faced tough regulatory hurdles: a four-year apprenticeship followed by a licensing exam.

“After 18 months (apprenticeship), I had had enough,” Locke said.

She moved on.

The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, sued the state on Locke’s behalf in 2009. A federal judge later ruled anyone could call themselves an interior designer, but then it upheld the licensing laws. The state Legislature has yet to strike that provision.

Similarly, barbers in Florida need 1,200 hours of training at specialty schools, costing $10,000 to $15,000, before obtaining a license to cut hair, regardless of what they may already know. Cosmetologists need 1,200 hours of coursework and training, averaging $17,000, to qualify for a license.

Travel agents, movers, auctioneers, craft-beer brewers and others face their own regulatory challenges.

Why the red-tape?

“These laws are often passed under the guise of public health and safety,” said Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Florida chapter of the Institute for Justice.

“When in reality, entrenched interests have lobbied legislators to pass these laws in order to protect their turf,” Bargil told Watchdog.org.

The American Society of Interior Designers is one of those groups. Representing 28,000 members and 48 chapters throughout the United States and Canada, ASID opposed a pair Florida bills in 2011 that would have deregulated their industry and many others.

“ASID is concerned about potential deregulation of the interior design profession in the state, not only because it will put so many interior designers out of work but because of the long-term economic impact on the state,” said Don Davis, director of government affairs in an advocacy video.

Both bills were ultimately killed.

“Increased competition doesn’t have a negative impact on job growth,” Bargil said. “It allows whole industries to become more competitive.”

Ahead of the 2014 legislative session, IJ is issuing a report about what it calls arbitrary regulations intended to shut out new competition.

The “Dirty Dozen report lists 12 regulations Bargil says are emblematic of the many restrictions small business entrepreneurs face in Florida.

“Every year the Florida Legislature passes about three hundred new laws. And every year, the new regulations pile onto the already-existing ones, reinforcing the barriers to entry that prevent or dissuade entrepreneurs from starting new businesses,” says the report.

More than just pointing fingers, IJ offers legislators a simple solution: repeal. Unlike creating new laws, drawing a line through what’s already on the books is efficient and less costly for taxpayers. Lawmakers are also limited to the number of bills they can introduce per session, but “repealers” do not count toward that total.

Bargil told Watchdog.org the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act already covers the public safety concerns that largely justify these types of laws. “These regulations are about turf,” he said.

“The best way for government to create jobs and boost the economy is simply to get out of the way,” Bargil said.

Contact William Patrick at wpatrick@watchdog.org or follow Florida Watchdog on Twitter at @watchdogfla Like Watchdog.org? Click HERE to get breaking news alerts in YOUR state!

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