August 18, 2019

Red Tape Report

Rules Watchdog

A statewide advisory council assesses the impact of proposed changes on small businesses.

Amy Keller | 2/1/2011

Frank Attkisson
Frank Attkisson is chairman of the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council, which has been successful in prompting changes to proposed small-business rules.
In 2009, the Florida Department of Health proposed a rule creating stronger penalties to discipline electrolysis facilities committing particular licensing violations. Specifically, any electrolysis facility that failed to obtain and maintain a current license would have to pay a fine of up to $5,000 and have its license denied. Furthermore, if such a facility was found to have employed an unlicensed person, the business’s license could be revoked — and not just for up to one year as was previously the case — but permanently.

The proposed rule caught the attention of Florida’s Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council, which since 2009 has been reviewing rules proposed by state agencies to assess their impact on small business. After the council objected to the one-strike policy and suggested several lower-cost regulatory alternatives, the Department of Health withdrew the rule and began working on a rewrite.

Former state Rep. Frank Attkisson, author of the legislation that created the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council and now chairman of the volunteer body, cites other victories over bureaucratic red tape and overregulation.

There was the handyman from Titusville, for instance, who wanted to file hard copies of his annual reports with the Office of Financial Regulation rather than electronic copies.

Miami’s Vice

According to a recent report from the Institute for Justice, a non-profit public interest libertarian law firm, the city of Miami is rife with red tape. The report, “Miami’s Vice: Overregulating Entrepreneurs,” cites the following examples:

» The business taxes required to peddle flowers in Miami cost more than $500 every year.

» Overly restrictive zoning laws require all home-based entrepreneurs, including artists and freelance writers, to get permission from the zoning board before opening their business.

» Before anyone can take a photograph in Miami for commercial purposes on a beach or public park, he must obtain a “commercial photographic permit” from the city manager.

For years, Attkisson says, the handyman had mailed in his statements, paying his filing fee by check. That changed in September 2009, when the Office of Financial Regulation implemented a new rule requiring all submissions and fee payments to be done online. The handyman, who didn’t own a computer, was told he’d have go to his local library to file his reports — and warned he’d have to pay a $400 penalty if he was late.

Seeking relief, the handyman contacted Florida’s Small Business Advocate, which referred the matter to the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council. Several months later, after the advisory council intervened, the Department of Financial Services agreed to allow small businesses to request an exemption from electronic filing. “Then the exemption form created by DFS was a multipage document, and DFS finally agreed the exemption could be requested in a simple letter explaining why electronic filing would be a hardship,” says Attkisson. “That to me probably is one of our biggest success things.”

While some 1,200 proposed rules are published in the Florida Administrative Weekly every year, Attkisson says he and the other eight members of the statewide advisory council typically review about 150 of them. The council also participates in agency sunset reviews to assess whether government agencies or their committees are small-business friendly.

According to the Small Business Regulatory Advisory Council, among the seven agencies reviewed last year, “none fared very well considering the economic impact their rule-making would have on Florida small businesses and the state’s economy.”

Licensing Logic?

The Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation licenses more than 1 million professionals and businesses, extending across 200 categories, ranging from electricians and cosmetologists to geologists and professional boxers. But not all professions are created equal — at least when it comes to the biennial license renewal fees charged by the state.

Profession Renewal Fee
Sports agent $445
Talent agency operator 405
Landscape architect 305
Veterinarian 265
Auctioneer 155
Geologist 130
Interior designer 125
Architect 125
Barber 105
Community association manager 105
Cosmetologist 55
Hair braider 30
Barber assistant 25
Building inspector 5

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