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Senate Amends Professional Deregulation Bill, Sending It Back To House

Tonichi Costas via flickr

After years of debate, the legislature is on the brink of deregulating a slate of professions. Cosmetologists to geologists to boxing announcers could have a better shot at starting a business. But some of those same workers have doubts about the reforms.

Monticello Republican Representative Halsey Beshears thinks it’s too hard to break into the beauty industry in Florida.

“It takes an EMT 325 hours to get a license. It takes a cosmetologist 1200 hours. And the student loans can go from five to twenty thousand dollars,” Beshears said.

The devil’s advocate might say, maybe our emergency medical technicians need more schooling. But Beshears and his conservative colleagues see these occupational licenses as a stumbling block for the economy. Justin Pearson is a lawyer with the Institute for Justice, and he’s supporting the plan to roll back licensing and training rules for certain workers.

“I represent first generation Americans, minorities, lower income individuals who are simply trying to pursue the American dream. But they can’t take a year off from their job to go jump through a bunch of arbitrary hoops. It’s ridiculous!” Pearson said.

Naples Republican Kathleen Passidomo is sponsoring the bill in the Senate.

“It does eliminate individual licenses for labor organizations, boxing announcers and timekeepers, hair wrappers, hair braiders, body wrappers,” Passidomo said.

Certain businesses would be exempt from licenses too.

“Yacht and shipbroker branch offices, architecture businesses, landscape architect businesses, asbestos businesses, interior design businesses. It does not eliminate the licenses for the individuals who practice the business,” Passidomo continued.

The Obama Administration wanted to roll back these licenses too. But some like the rules as they are. Miami Gardens Democratic Representative Barbara Watson used to own a beauty salon. She says barbers and cosmetologists do hundreds of hours of training for a reason – public health.

“I had a client come into my salon which had a contagious disease. Had we not been able to identify it immediately, it could have spread within the community very rapidly,” Watson said.

When it comes to hiring, employers don’t want to sacrifice quality for quantity. Stephanie Borras owns a salon and a spa, and has taught at the Aveda Institute cosmetology school. She says it takes time to learn her line of work.

“You are asking salon owners to assume the liability of people who have not had hands-on training, who have not had hands-on education,” Borras said.

Her husband and business partner Joseph Borras says he already has to retrain new hires as it is.

“Lowering the hours is costing me as a salon-owner more money because I have to train these individuals when they come into my salon,” Borras said.

The changes are making some of the state’s interior designers nervous too. They work with engineers and architects to design commercial buildings like schools and hospitals. Lisa Waxman chairs Florida State University’s interior design department, and she's worried some of that work may disappear.

“What this bill does is it doesn’t deregulate us, it regulates us even tighter and forces us to work under architects. It also limits the public’s choice in terms of the type of person they can hire,” Waxman said.

Her testimony worries Indialantic Republican Representative Thad Altman.

“This could increase the cost to consumers dramatically," Altman said. “Because work that would normally got to a licensed interior designer, a highly trained licensed interior designer…that may not be around for them anymore. And they may have to go to a larger, more expensive architecture firm to get that work done.”

*Clarification: After hearing testimony from interior designers, lawmakers decided to remove regulations that would've affected that industry's operations.

Ultimately lawmakers decided to cut regulations, despite professionals’ concerns. The Senate voted the bill forward unanimously Wednesday. The House has already approved the plan and it now heads to the Governor.

*Correction: The Senate amended the bill Wednesday to include language relating to fantasy sports. That change sends the measure back to the House for reconsideration.

As a Tallahassee native, Kate Payne grew up listening to WFSU. She loves being part of a station that had such an impact on her. Kate is a graduate of the Florida State University College of Motion Picture Arts. With a background in documentary and narrative filmmaking, Kate has a broad range of multimedia experience. When she’s not working, you can find her rock climbing, cooking or hanging out with her cat.