This week marks an important time for veterans, their immediate families and low-income workers in Florida. The House Bill 615 that took effect July 1 will remove some meaningful barriers to employment. Veterans and their spouses moving into Florida will now be allowed to continue working in the profession that they were licensed to perform in their previous state of residence, without having to meet additional licensing requirements. Licensing fees will also be waived for most Florida veterans, spouses of veterans and low-income workers.
Florida lawmakers should be commended for taking these positive steps that will provide veterans and low-income workers with more employment opportunities. A lot of hard work, unfortunately, remains undone.
Veterans in Florida and across the United States that drove commercial vehicles in the military now have the opportunity to apply for a military skills test waiver within one year of the end of their service. But several other aspects of military training continue to not be accepted in the civilian sector. Many veterans receive extensive medical training throughout the course of their service, yet these individuals are still required to complete the same amount of mandated minimum levels of training as any other applicant. Hundreds of dollars of fees have been removed but thousands of dollars of fees associated with mandatory education and training remain.
Far too many Floridians are unnecessarily burdened by occupational licensing laws. According to a report from the Obama administration, 28 percent of the workforce in Florida has a license. This is almost seven full percentage points higher than the national average reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The elimination of licensing fees will be helpful for low-income workers, but what about all the fees for education and training? Florida is one of just three states and jurisdictions to license interior designers. Aspiring designers must complete six years of education and training. Once again, hundreds of dollars in fees may be gone, but thousands of dollars in education and training fees remain intact.
Another bill that would have allowed aspiring professionals in a wide array of job positions, from hair braiders to boxing announcers, to work without a license died in the Senate last month. Earlier versions of the bill also eliminated licensing requirements for interior designers, but successful lobbying efforts of existing interior designers in Florida resulted in a significant rewording of the bill.
Will scaling back education and training requirements of occupational licensing statutes cause undue harm to the public? The evidence that we have available says no. According to the Obama White House, just two of a population of 12 studies estimating the effects of stricter licensing on quality find evidence of any positive effects.
It is important to give credit where credit is due. While the reforms of House Bill 615 will make a meaningful difference for many Floridians, too many citizens in Florida will continue to find their hopes and dreams crushed by seemingly needless occupational licensing laws.