Legislative proposals to deregulate the licensing requirements for a number of professions in Florida could help prevent individuals convicted of crimes from returning to prison. That’s the finding of a new report released Monday morning by the James Madison Institute (JMI), a policy research think tank based in Tallahassee.
The report states that “deregulating occupational licensing laws in Florida could have a one-for-one impact on reducing recidivism.” It claims for each one percent reduction in the number of regulated professions in Florida, the state would see a one percent decrease in the number of people who recommit crimes and return to prison.
“Research consistently shows that a steady job is critical to helping those leaving prison stabilize their life and avoid re-offending,” says Samuel R. Staley with JMI’s Research Advisory Council. “Unnecessary barriers to employment, such as most occupational licensing laws, are significant obstacles to the gainful employment formerly incarcerated people need to re-join our communities as productive members.”
The JMI report says about 86 percent of individuals released from prison are likely to re-offend within nine years following their release, with most of them re-offending within the first two years. The report says it’s crucial to get individuals into the workforce to stop the cycle of crime. The report concludes that the best way to get individuals back into the workplace after being released from prison is to deregulate Florida’s occupational licensing requirements.
“In the world of policy analysis, we often spend our time focusing on numbers, charts, and statistics,” said Sal Nuzzo, JMI’s Vice President of Policy. “It is my sincere hope that with this analysis we see the reality – that behind the statistics in this incredible study are human beings, worthy of respect and possessing intrinsic value, trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. This is why we do what we do – to help promote opportunity for all of us, regardless of life circumstances.”
From talent agents to auctioneers and boxing announcers, proposals working their way through the legislative process this year would deregulate licensing requirements for a number of professions.
One of those proposals (SB 1640) is scheduled to be heard Monday afternoon in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. The legislation touches more than 100 sections and would repeal licensing requirements for many professions, including interior designers. That generated opposition last week from interior designers who argue the spaces they sometimes redesign — like doctors offices — affect public health and, therefore, should have some regulation.
The American Institute of Beauty also questions whether the state is going too far.
“It’s appropriate for state lawmakers to consider the proper role of government and eliminate excessive regulations that hold back Florida’s economy,” said Michael Halmon, the Institute’s president, said in a recent op-ed that was published in The Capitolist. “At the same time, it’s essential that elected leaders preserve the fundamental responsibility of government to safeguard citizens and avoid actions that have unintended consequences.”
In his op-ed, Halmon writes:
This legislation would reduce the number of hours needed to work as a barber to 600, less than half the national average. Within that limited time, students would have to learn fully about safety and sanitation, including preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, and fungal diseases and recognizing potential skin and scalp conditions – all while also studying the fundamentals of hair cutting and styling, performing delicate chemical procedures, and following applicable laws and rules.
But, the JMI report says too many of the state’s professional licensing requirements have become barriers for too many Floridians seeking to re-enter the state’s workforce.
“Occupational licensing is a classic example of well-intended public policy gone awry. Rather than protect consumers or ensure service quality, licenses erect barriers to entry for workers,” said Vittorio Nastasi, JMI’s Associate Scholar, “This study indicates that overly burdensome training and formal education requirements are especially detrimental to former offenders. Reducing these requirements could significantly ease the reintegration process by opening new opportunities for gainful employment.”
The sponsor of the Senate bill says he is trying to use good judgment in addressing deregulation.
“I want things to make sense,” said Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, said last week. “I want deregulation where it can happen but at the same time I really feel like we need to be thoughtful about this and cautious to make sure we’re not making a poor choice and putting the safety of our constituency at risk.”
A Flip-Side Perspective of Occupational Licensing
As a licensed barber in Florida, with previously held barber, master barber, and instructor licenses in other states, I find the premise that occupational licensing creates “unnecessary barriers to employment” to be misguided and belittling to occupational license holders nationwide.
Prior deregulation efforts have already resulted in Florida barber licensure requirements ranking 50th in the nation. What does this mean to Florida barbers? It means that if a licensee wants to relocate to any state other than Connecticut, they will be required to go back to school for additional training hours, take a practical exam, or both. And this is the “opportunity”, with even more training hour reductions, that will be passed on to incarcerated or recently released individuals? If anything, licensing standards should be raised to ensure competency, not diminished to the point of worthlessness.
Much of this deregulation discussion has been devoid of any acknowledgement of the positive aspects of occupational licensing. Specialized training requirements and occupational licensing can actually serve to guide and motivate individuals toward levels of self-actualization and personal achievement. Education, training, and licensure are stepping stones to both intrinsic and tangible success. Every topic studied and practiced, every hour spent in learning and building on that learning can produce measurable outcomes; and, every outcome has the potential to lead to personal discovery and accomplishment. For barbering and cosmetology students, this often means converting abstract concepts into practical applications and this type of learning requires time to process, experiment, and practice before mastery can be achieved. There are no short-cuts to doing it right.
Each step taken is a personal benchmark of achievement that has the potential to lead to a competent and self-sustaining future in a profession that will always need service-oriented, safety-conscious, and skilled practitioners. Our licenses are earned through commitment, self-discipline, and personal achievement. That means something to us and to the customers we serve and yes, we are proud of having earned a license that says we are qualified to do something, much like a law graduate must feel after having passed a bar exam.
Yet Another Attack Position
The timing and intent of this article is all too obvious to those opposing House Bill 27; factor in the JMI’s study conclusion “that the best way to get individuals back into the workplace after being released from prison is to deregulate Florida’s occupational licensing requirements” and the quasi- justification for deregulation and the eventual destruction of our professions reads loud and clear.
It should be noted that neither the article nor study address when or where training will take place or how gainful employment will be ensured since job candidates will not have had sufficient training to attain entry-level skills. Couple the reduction of training hours in HB 27 with the challenge to include life-skills preparation and profession-related assimilation needs into the curriculum and the “unintended consequences” will be apparent in record time.
In closing, if our elected officials are serious about providing viable employment opportunities for their diverse constituents across the board, they have only to reach out to Florida-based state and national associations to collaborate with barber and cosmetology experts in education and training, instructional design, workforce development, and entrepreneurship. The door is open if they choose to walk through it with an open mind.