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Paul Renner calls occupational licensing a barrier to the American Dream

Renner spoke on conservative values to raise people from $9 an hour wages

Republican state Rep. Paul Renner told a Florida Chamber of Commerce gathering Tuesday morning to expect “a lot of activity” in the 2020 Legislative Session on occupational licensing, a regulatory framework he denounced as a barrier to the American Dream.

Renner, of Palm Coast, spoke of Florida poverty to the Florida Chamber’s Future of Florida Forum in Orlando Tuesday, touching on needed reforms for criminal justice, child care opportunities, education, social safety nets, and free-market capitalism to lift Floridians from $9 an hour wages to $50,000 a year careers.

But the future Speaker of the House focused primarily on occupational licensing reform for professions ranging from barbers to architects to talent agents, a matter that was a top priority this year for many Republicans including Gov. Ron DeSantis, but which died on the House floor in the 2019 Legislative Session under heavy fire from multiple business groups.

Renner accused unnamed professions of defending occupational licensing as protection “for those who have already arrived.”

“Government often times has been a barrier to opportunity, a barrier to work, and a barrier to the American Dream,” Renner declared. “That is perhaps most clearly seen in something I think you’ll see in this session in the area of occupational licensing.

“Occupational licensing is essentially a permission slip for you do what you are passionate about, what you are trained to do, and to provide for your family,” he added. “Think about that: government giving you a permission slip to provide for yourself and your family.”

The problem is that government licensing makes sense for professions such as heart surgeons and bridge builders, he allowed. But Renner contended there has been an explosion of occupational licensing. He focused on barbers, a common poster child profession raised in legislative debates this past spring.

“What it really has become is protectionism. It has become an opportunity for those who have already arrived to close the door of opportunity to those who have not,” Renner said. “And so it is in truth a tax to work and a barrier to the American Dream.”

Renner also advocated what he called a “flex fund” of public assistance, something that could provide varying amounts of assistance if people need money for child care or other challenges unique to their situations.

“We find ourselves with fiscal cliffs, or poverty cliffs, where to make a dollar you lose more than a dollar when you go to work,” he said. “So poor people are rational as well. So sometimes they find the most rational decision that they can make is a life of dependency, because to get a job they see these fiscal cliffs where they lose all of their day care benefits, they lose their food stamp benefits, this type of things. So we also need to see how we can better apportion those existing funds.”

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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