Smarter job creation: Dial back Florida’s licensing requirements

The 2017 legislative session is now underway, and taxpayers should be watching their wallets. Gov. Rick Scott wants to dole out $85 million in corporate welfare to Enterprise Florida, a state agency that gives handouts to well-connected corporations, with the dubious promise that it will create jobs.

If Florida’s leaders are serious about putting people to work, then there is a better way — one that doesn’t involve reaching into taxpayers’ pockets. Rather, they should begin rolling back the state’s occupational-licensing laws, which require job seekers to obtain the government’s permission before entering their chosen profession.

One victim of these laws is Eva Maria Locke, whose goal was to become an interior designer. Under Florida law, aspiring designers must acquire a degree in interior design, complete a multiyear internship, and pass an exam that comes with a $1,265 fee.

Eva earned her degree, but two years into her apprenticeship, the Great Recession put her employer out of business. Now, because Eva remains unlicensed, she can perform design services only in residential spaces, not commercial ones — a limitation that has forced her to turn away clients.

A Cuban-American immigrant, Eva once saw this place as a land of opportunity. “But I’ve gotten a huge wake-up call,” she said.

Sadly, interior designers are far from the only ones who suffer from these burdensome laws. The number of jobs requiring a license has exploded over the decades. Researchers at Florida State University’s DeVoe L. Moore Center estimate that roughly 300 professions and businesses now require a license in our state.

Few of these professions pose an obvious threat to public safety, and many are unlicensed in other states. Florida is one of just eight states that license travel agents, and one of 12 states that license funeral attendants. Only three other states license interior designers.

The process of obtaining a license can be long and expensive. Aspiring auctioneers must pass two exams and pay $1,000 in fees. Interior designers must complete no less than six years of education and apprenticeship. By contrast, it takes just 34 days to become a trained emergency medical technician.

Read more of this Orlando Sentinel op-ed by Chris Hudson by clicking here.

Photo: Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda / Orlando Sentinel