Senate and House bills to reduce or eliminate state regulations on a wide variety of professional occupations were approved by committees Tuesday with the Senate version seeing very little opposition but the House bill receiving strong objections from cosmetologists, interior designers, and a handful of Democrats.
Senate Bill 474, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ben Albritton of Bartow, retains more state requirements for training of cosmetologists and replaces licensing with a registration process for higher-qualified interior designers, provisions that gained widespread support from professionals in those two occupations, and significant support from Democrats on the Senate Committee on Innovation, Industry, and Technology Tuesday.
Meanwhile, House Bill 1193, from Republican state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia of Spring Hill, got through the House Business and Professions Subcommittee with a split, largely partisan vote, after professionals in those same occupations and others criticized the bill for going too far, jeopardizing student financial aid for people attending technical schools and creating some unresolved concerns about how interior designers might work on government contracts.
Those were matters Ingoglia said could be resolved, but they remained open matters on Tuesday.
Both bills move forward the professional deregulation effort begun last year and championed by Gov. Ron DeSantis under the general conclusion that Florida over-regulates far too many professions, essentially requiring people to get state permission to get jobs. But after complexities piled up, Albritton pulled the plug on his bill last year and the matter died.
Both bills this year either reduce education requirements for a wide array of professions, such as auctioneers, barbers, and geologists, eliminate some licensing requirements altogether for such professions as hair braiding, nutritionists, and boxing announcers, and address other regulatory matters, while still trying to preserve requirements to protect public health and safety.
The omnibus nature of the deregulation bogged down throughout the 2019 Legislative Session in battles over what amount of training is too little, and what is onerous, creating financial and time-consuming challenges for people trying to find new occupations. Albritton said he’s been working hard with the professions to reach the sweet spots in SB 474.
In the Senate committee, there were few significant disagreements.
“There are 70 plus sections of this bill and many of these sections are very complex,” Albritton said. “It’s been a labor of love for the last 18 months and my hope that through the relationships we’ve been able to build over that 18 months, and the consensus we’ve been able to build on many of these challenging issues, we’ll be able to move this forward and do something good for folks that have been looking for jobs here, looking for advancement here in Florida.
“The changes that are in this bill, they’re going to change people’s lives. And I don’t want us to forget about that,” he added.
There were some surprises in the SB 474 discussion, such as when Democratic Sen. Gary Farmer of Fort Lauderdale raised concerns that it may include a de facto preemption of local governments’ abilities to decide where food trucks can park for business. Albritton and Farmer agreed that if the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations governs food trucks, then cities shouldn’t. Albritton promised to work with Farmer on the locations control issue, so Farmer voted in favor of the bill.
HB 1193 got a rougher go Tuesday in the House committee, where it was met by strong support from various general business groups but not from specific professions. The cosmetologists and interior designers in particular objected strongly.
That was especially true for representatives of technical schools that teach the professions. While reduction in education requirements clearly would cut into their revenue, they also pointed out that many of the students are reliant on PELL grants and other federal financial aid, which they could lose if education requirements are cut as far as the bill mandates.
“We’d like to talk with the sponsor. There is a companion bill in the Senate [SB 474]. We are in support of that bill. But the way this bill is represented to you is not acceptable,” said Mez Varol, who runs a cosmetology school in Daytona Beach and is president of the Florida Association of Cosmetology and Technical Schools.
“What you heard here was a lot of the school owners who come here. I get it. They have a vested interest in what is happening,” Ingoglia said. “But I will tell you a lot of the conversations I have had with people on the ground, going to these schools, we are releasing an economic burden on them.”