Paul Renner calls occupational licensing a barrier to the American Dream
Mike Johnson. Image via AP.

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.”

Scott Powers

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 [email protected].


  • Larry Gillis, Cape Coral

    October 29, 2019 at 10:30 am


    Getting the government out of occupational licensing is a Libertarian principle. It has been a Libertarian principle “ab initio” (look it up). It has only taken the Republican Party 50 years to wise up to the use that professional hustlers have made of license-by-government. We would have appreciated you mentioning us in this article.

    Specifically, the platform of the Libertarian Party of Florida says (Part I: STATE GOVERNMENT): “… All governments must be removed entirely from the licensing process, including occupational licensing. Government has produced no better results than private licensing and has amounted to another tax. Business licensing ought to be abolished, the right to commerce is inherent and a business license tax does not benefit the public nor provide consumer safety. Boating, hunting & fishing licenses ought to be abolished, as there should be no access restriction to public resources such as our State’s waterways, oceans, and wildlife, which are free to access by all …”

    • Karen

      October 29, 2019 at 11:31 am

      It is all about the money! Every little township, county, suburb, burrough etc wants a piece of the pie!
      As a former licensing administrator for a major contractor I recall many times going into a small community to do a job where the licensing fees cost more than the job itself.

  • Matthew Floyd Lusk

    October 29, 2019 at 12:12 pm

    Liberty for the people, buyer beware. I have wired complete houses in Texas, from the mast drop to receptacles. Would love to do some home wiring and only charge $18 an hour but here in Florida there is no occupational freedom.

  • Matthew Floyd Lusk

    October 29, 2019 at 12:14 pm

    Local building code regulations are another freedom killer that keeps people renting and on welfare.

  • Ed Flarhety

    November 1, 2019 at 7:29 am

    Wow… This Renner is as out of touch with reality as he is full of himself! The bureaucracy of licensing should be made more efficient for sure. But, licensing is a KEY element to providing for the health, safety, and welfare of the consumer and public. Only a twit fails to grasp that!

  • Brennan Shawl

    November 3, 2019 at 7:59 pm

    Make sure to go after the healthcare boards too. The Florida Board of Optometry is infamous for putting up barriers to protect themselves from competition. Anyone who believes they are protecting “public health” is just fooling themselves or has a stake in the field… Hope Florida takes away these unnecessary barriers and allows license reciprocity. Oh and I’m glad the Optometry Board lost their fight to telemedicine. No Board deserves to be shoved off their high horse more than the Florida Optometry Board!

Comments are closed.


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