June 23, 2021

Florida lawmaker refiles stalled 2019 bill banning local occupational licensing

Rep. Michael Grant’s 2019 House Bill 3 sought to eliminate all local business regulations as of July 1, 2021, and then require an economic impact analysis and a supermajority approval every two years for any surviving municipal regulations to be reauthorized.

The bill prohibiting local governments from imposing their own occupational and professional licensing requirements was among a raft of 50-plus preemption-related bills introduced during the 2019 legislative session.

Among those adopted were bills prohibiting local governments from banning front-yard gardens, collecting fees from communications providers that use public roads or rights-of-way, and outlawing plastic straws in restaurants and other establishments.

Grant’s HB 3 fell short. After passing three House committees, it was approved by the chamber in an 88-24 vote before dying in the Senate without a committee hearing.

But it’ll soon be a new year and new session and, apparently, both will come with a new HB 3 that largely replicates the “old” HB 3.

Grant, R-Port Charlotte, on Nov. 25 re-filed a 2020 version of last year’s bill – also designated as HB 3. It has not yet been assigned to committees for the session, which begins Jan. 14.

As with last year’s bill, this year’s HB 3 would prohibit local governments from imposing new occupational and professional licensing requirements beginning July 1, 2020.

Under the bill, any existing regulations would expire on July 1, 2022.

Loosening or eliminating occupational license requirements imposed by 23 professional licensing boards on nearly 30 percent of Florida’s workforce – the highest percentage of state-regulated workers in the South and four-highest in the nation – is a priority for Gov. Ron DeSantis.

But Grant, who is House Majority Whip through the 2020 session, told the House Business & Professions Subcommittee last March that mushrooming growth in local ordinances – not just those regulating occupational licenses – is “becoming a statewide problem” by creating a patchwork of intricate and intrusive laws and regulations.

He cited the city of Key West’s bans on suntan lotions that contain oxybenzone or octinoxate because the chemicals could harm the area’s coral reefs as an example of “over-kill.”

“Somebody told me today you’d need a half-a-billion people to jump in the ocean, all slathered in sunscreen lotion to have an impact on the reef,” Grant told the panel.

Supporters, which include the Florida Retail Federation, Associated Industries of Florida and Florida Chamber of Commerce, maintain state oversight standardizes regulation and is more fair because many business owners don’t live in the city or county where their business is, meaning they can’t vote on matters that affect them.

State oversight also transcends jurisdictions, which is a salient factor across many matters, whether it be watershed issues or regulating operations such as Uber.

The Florida Association of Counties, Florida League of Cities and an array of labor unions, environmental organizations and civil-rights groups opposed last year’s HB 3 and are likely to denounce this year’s version as well.

Equality Florida said HB 3 was a threat to local human rights ordinances, noting local laws in Florida prohibit employers in 30 local jurisdictions from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Removing those protections would not only invite lawsuits the state is likely to lose, opponents say, but would make the state less competitive economically.

 

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