Deregulation Pressure Rubs Legislator The Wrong Way

Feb 16, 2016

It's assumed a conservative Republican Legislature could easily agree that less government is better. But that’s not the case when it comes to deregulation, even for professions like body wrapping and animal massage.

Animal accupressure is one of a handful of professions that are under consideration for deregulation under legislation making its way through the House and Senate.

Rep. James Grant , R-Tampa, a wasn’t surprised at the long list of lobbyists expressing concerns about his legislation, even though he says he’s only peeling back the thinnest layer of government regulation.

“There’s always the fascinating experience of pro-business, maybe conservative or fiscally conservative minded people saying, no, no, no, keep this regulation in place because it protects me from competition,” he said.

Grant’s bill isn’t exactly radical. It’s supported by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and it deals with only a handful of the 300 regulated professions in Florida.

For example, it would end the licensing or registration requirements for professions like body and hair wrappers, athletic agents and labor unions.

“Should a labor union have to pay for licensure and regulation by the Department of Business and Professional Regulations? Or should they be able to go operate on their own with a minimum threshold in place? And my position and the department’s position would be that the department currently has too much to do with labor unions.”

Higher skilled professions, like geology and interior design, would still have to be licensed. But the bill would get rid of so-called “certificates of authorization,” that are required to practice as a firm.  

Phil Leary, a lobbyist with the Florida Association of Professional Geologists, warned getting rid of certificates of authorization would invite unfair competition. Here he is a few weeks ago testifying before the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

“All those geology companies in Georgia and Alabama that have that certificate of authorization under their state will come into Florida to do that work and then our geologists will end up unemployed.”

Rep. Jeff Brandes, R- St. Petersburg, is the Senate sponsor and he wasn’t buying the aruegment.

“Frankly, I think the issue of out-of-state vendors and coming in is malarkey. I don’t put any substantive value in that statement at all.”

But Brandes reluctantly cleaved geologists from the bill to get it passed the committee. He also exempted animal message and animal acupressure after the  Florida Veterinary Medical Association expressed concerns.

“This amendment removes the section of the bill that would deregulate animal massage and animal acupressure. You will still need a license to heavily pet your dog.”

Actually, the law only requires animal acupressure and animal message to be done under the supervision of veterinarian, but Brandes’ point remains the same.

Professional deregulation bills are controversial because the politics can be convoluted.

Last year, in a case called the North Carolina Board of Dental Examiners vs the Federal Trade Commission, a liberal majority of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the regulators could be sued for anti-trade violations.

he case arose after the dentists on the board shut down unlicensed competitors who were offering discount teeth whitening.  Ari Bargil, a lobbyist for the conservative Florida Institute of Justice, praised the ruling when he testified in favor of Brandes’ deregulation bill. Government licensing is often just an excuse, he says, to stifle the free market.

“The call for reforming laws that impinge on economic liberty has never been louder and the momentum over the last two years has brought us very modest bills like this.”

Sam Staley, director of the pro-business DeVoe Moore Center at Florida State University, doesn’t think the bill goes far enough.

“The vast majority of the occupations could be effectively regulated through private certification processes and the market itself and that the state should increasingly look toward deregulating a whole bunch more occupations than are just the ones that are in this bill.”

But Samantha Padgett, a lobbyist for the Florida Retail Federation and the Beauty Industry Council, says body wrapping regulation should be left alone because it represents the prefect compromise.

Body wrappers aren’t licensed, but they must register and take safety courses. Otherwise, she says, people could get sick or hurt.

“As your skin is the largest organ of your body, and it can help protect you, but it can also, if it is not treated properly, it can open you up to infections and other harmful things like that, we would ask you to carefully consider if this is an area that needs to be deregulated because of a concern for public health, safety and welfare.”

Both bills face at least one more committee stop before reaching the floor.