Florida passes most comprehensive deregulation bill to date
Florida made history when it passed the Occupational Freedom of Opportunity Act in 2020, which loosened or abolished occupational licensing requirements across 30 professions. But not everyone was pleased. We explore the main provisions of the law and the debate surrounding its passage.

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On June 30, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed HB 1193, known as the Occupational Freedom of Opportunity Act, into law. Called “the most sweeping occupational licensing reform in history” by the libertarian magazine and website Reason, the new law – which went into effect on July 1, 2020 – loosens or abolishes occupational licensing requirements across more than 30 professions.

Here’s an overview of the main provisions of the law, which will have a direct impact on how thousands of Floridians work going forward.

Occupational Freedom of Opportunity Act impacts more than 30 professions

HB 1193 removes licensure requirements for practitioners in several occupations, including hair braiders, hair wrappers, and body wrappers; timekeepers and announcers working in the sport of boxing; and interior designers (although it allows for optional certification). It also eliminates separate licenses for architects, geologists, and landscape architects who already hold an individual license.

In addition, HB 1193 lowers continuing education requirements for cosmetologists and alarm system contractors, and also reduces the number of training hours needed for barbers and nail specialists to become licensed. Cosmetologists and specialists providing services at special events will no longer have to be employed by a licensed salon, and the law also allows licensed individuals to perform hair and nail services outside of a salon.

Lawmakers celebrate new law, but reactions from practitioners are mixed

Florida lawmakers celebrated HB 1193 for cutting bureaucratic red tape, eliminating “excessive” licensing laws, and paving the way for entrepreneurs, but not all practitioners who were impacted by the law agreed.

Stacey Reiser, a barber in Tallahassee, felt that reducing the educational hours required for licensing barbers could jeopardize education efforts surrounding health practices. “In our industry, we learn how to deal with sanitation and communicable diseases. I see things like that slipping through the cracks,” she told the Florida Phoenix in early 2020. Hair braiders and wrappers, who must know proper techniques, handling of chemicals, and sanitation practices for client safety, also expressed reservations about the bill.

Eva Locke, one of three women who, with the help of the libertarian law firm Institute for Justice (IJ), filed a lawsuit in 2009 challenging the constitutionality of Florida’s licensing requirements to practice interior design, was happy that HB 1193 removed the mandatory license to practice. Previously, interior designers would have to complete six years of education and experience and a two-year apprenticeship to obtain a license. Florida was one of only six states to require a license to practice interior design. “This has been a long time coming, and I am glad to see that our fight finally resulted in sensible reform,” she said in an IJ press release applauding HB 1193. “Interior design will now be open to many Floridians who lacked the resources and time to work through all the requirements.”

But Locke’s position was not shared by many interior designers in Florida, who criticized the bill during the legislative process for going too far, jeopardizing student aid for those attending technical school, and creating unresolved concerns around government contracts.

Nutrition coaches hail new bill as “victory,” while dietitians cite public health risks

Nutrition coaches were pleased about the new law’s passage, but dietitians were adamantly opposed. Before HB 1193, only licensed dietitians were allowed to give paid nutritional advice, and nutrition coaches throughout Florida were being fined or sent cease and desist letters from the Department of Health for giving nutritional guidance to clients, despite having certifications. The licensing requirements were challenged in court by Heather Kokesch Del Castillo, a health coach who was also represented by IJ. Although that litigation was still in progress at the time of the bill’s passage, HB 1193 made significant changes to the licensing requirements, allowing nutrition coaches to give paid nutritional advice as long as they don’t “represent or imply” that they are a licensed dietitian or nutritionist.

CrossFit, which endorses the Basics of Nutrition Coaching and Precision Nutrition programs in its Preferred Course Program, was actively engaged on HB 1193 and hailed the bill’s signing as a “significant victory” for its trainers, who would now be able to provide dietary advice to clients. “Florida’s nearly 500 CrossFit affiliates are locally owned and operated small businesses that make their communities healthier every day,” said CrossFit spokesperson Brett Ewer. “They should not have been harassed, and they should have been free to offer nutrition guidance from the start. Now, because of the exemplary leadership of Gov. DeSantis and the Florida Legislature, we are confident that our affiliates and trainers can continue their fight against the chronic disease epidemic.”

But registered dietitians, along with many members of the public, vehemently disagreed with the gym’s enthusiastic endorsement of HB 1193, as evidenced by the nearly 950 mostly negative comments on the company’s Instagram post announcing the “victory.” Quinn Haisley, an eating disorder dietitian practicing in New York, called the post “infuriating,” noting that there are serious public health risks with Florida’s decision. “I see clients all the time who develop eating disorders or disordered eating from well-meaning trainers who don’t know how to do proper nutrition counseling,” she said in her comment.

Debate demonstrates complexity of deregulation efforts

The debate surrounding HB 1193 demonstrates the complexity of deregulation efforts. It is widely felt that too many occupations require a license, and that occupational licensing requirements can impose burdens on those wishing to enter a profession. The wide range of occupations that are licensed – which varies from state to state – can seem arbitrary or unnecessary to many, as many regulated occupations don’t seem to have an obvious risk to public health and safety. However, there can often also be risks and unintended consequences associated with deregulation that aren’t immediately apparent. As occupational licensing reform gains steam across the U.S., these debates will no doubt continue to come to the forefront as lawmakers try to decide which licensing requirements are truly necessary to protect the public, and which can be safely removed or loosened to ease burdens for practitioners and promote competition.

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Ariel Visconti
Written byAriel Visconti
Ariel Visconti researches and writes on government and politics, regulation, occupational licensing, and emerging technologies.

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