by Jon Sanders
Research Editor and Senior Fellow, Regulatory Studies, John Locke Foundation
The John Locke Foundation’s Carolina Rebound plan to revive North Carolina’s economy includes a healthy menu of occupational licensing deregulation and reforms. Why? We explain: “Licensing slows job growth, limits the supply of licensed workers, and drives up consumer costs for the work. None of those outcomes is good for a post-COVID recovery.”
We continue to urge NC’s policymakers to free people from unnecessary licensing burdens. This summer, Florida’s policymakers did just that.
Reason called it “the most sweeping occupational licensing reform in history.” The Institute for Justice said it “repeals more occupational licensing laws than any licensing reform ever passed by any other state.” And it was a bipartisan bill that passed unanimously in the state Senate and 103-11 in the state House.
The following paragraphs detail several of the reforms contained in Florida’s House Bill 1193, the “Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act.” Many features of Florida’s new law are ideas JLF has promoted for North Carolina.
Florida’s new law has gotten rid of some licenses, including those for interior design, hair braiding, hair wrapping, body wrapping, boxing timekeeping, and boxing announcing. JLF recommends laws that would test licensing restrictions to see if they are (1) demonstrably necessary, (2) carefully tailored, and (3) able to achieve legitimate health, safety, and welfare objectives. Those unnecessary licenses are among many others that likely wouldn’t pass such tests.
The law expands reciprocity and license by endorsement for professionals in several fields who are licensed in other states. The licenses of all current and active barbers and cosmetologists licensed in other states are now endorsed in Florida. This gets Florida close to Universal License Recognition, one of JLF’s five key policy recommendations for streamlining North Carolina’s occupational regulation.
It also reduces burdens on several licenses, including lowering education and continuing education requirements for some professions and the training hours for others. It also eliminates some examination requirements for some licenses. Requiring licensing in a profession hurts job creation in that field, but having higher costs and stricter requirements for obtaining a license limits job creation even more.
Another way the new law helps consumers and professionals is by raising the price ceiling on handyman services to $2,500, jobs below which are given a construction licensing exemption. This reform would expand opportunities for handymen, give consumers more options (which should lower their costs in terms of time as well as money), and it might also put downward price pressure on some jobs approaching that price ceiling.
Florida now lets licensed individuals offer a large array of hair and nail styling services outside of a licensed salon. As we have argued for NC, this is a sensible reform, especially in the context of COVID-19 and salon closures.
The new law also throws out the requirement that licensed architects, geologists, and landscape architects also obtain a business license. Likewise, it eliminated the obligation that yacht and shipbrokers obtain additional licenses for each branch office of their businesses, letting them get only one for their main offices. Such unnecessary duplication only raises regulatory burdens without benefiting consumers or would-be service professionals.
The new law allows people to offer services in giving dietary, wellness, and nutrition advice and recommendations and even sell food or supplements, so long as they don’t claim to be licensed dietitians, nutritionists, or nutrition counselors. They still cannot offer unlicensed services to people under the direct care of a medical doctor for a disease or medical condition requiring such services. Punishing people for giving advice on how to eat healthy is an egregious but surprisingly common example of unnecessary criminal penalties coming from overzealous enforcement of licensing.
While it still allows zoning laws to preclude food trucks in some places, Florida now forbids local governments from adding additional licenses, permits, regulations, or prohibitions against food trucks, which are licensed and regulated by the state. JLF recommends a light regulatory touch at the local level for food trucks, mobile pet groomers, other innovative businesses, platform-based services, and emerging marketplaces.
Florida has told the rest of the nation that it’s open for business. North Carolinians can ill afford for our state to sit idly by while other states deregulate their outdated occupational licensing regimes.
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