By John Haughey
The Center Square
May 5, 2021
The Florida Legislature concluded its session Friday by adopting a $101.5 billion budget, two huge insurance reform measures and a raft of partisan-motivated bills likely to be challenged in court.
But the 60-day lawmaking sprint also produced “a tremendous session for small-business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs throughout the Sunshine State,” said Florida Office Managing Attorney Justin Pearson of Virginia-based Institute for Justice, a law firm.
Among adopted measures from “a long list of bills that we actively supported,” Pearson named several with a common theme: “All of these bills will help Floridians of modest means start businesses or seek employment.”
House Bill 735, sponsored by Rep Joe Harding, R-Ocala, was approved by the House April 1, 82-32, and 22-18 by the Senate on April 27.
HB 735 “prohibits local governments from requiring a license for a person whose job scope does not substantially correspond to that of a contractor or journeyman type licensed” by the state’s Construction Industry Licensing Board and the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR).
The bill comes on the heels of 2020’s 94-page Occupational Freedom & Opportunity Act that reduced regulatory requirements and fees imposed by 18 state boards on more than 440,000 Floridians, including barbers, Realtors, certified public accountants, engineers and auctioneers.
“It is going to be great for Floridians of modest means,” Pearson said, noting after two years of state licensing reforms, this year’s emphasis was on “local occupation licenses, which make even less sense than state licensing: an occupation that is safe in one town doesn’t become dangerous when it enters another town.”
Since last year’s bill went into effect on July 1, “some municipalities have imposed the same occupational licenses for the same occupations that the state eliminated licenses for,” Pearson said, often at the behest of “business owners in affluent communities have realized local licensing costs and burdens keep out competition from less affluent communities.”
HB 403, sponsored by Rep. Mike Giallombardo, R-Cape Coral, was adopted by the House April 30, 77-41, and the same day by the Senate, 19-18.
HB 403 broadens which business is considered “home-based” and preempts local government regulation at a home’s front door.
“It says local government can still regulate external issues but if you are working in your home — working peacefully and not bothering anybody in your own home — the government has to leave you alone,” Pearson said. “They cannot stop you from making a living in your own home.”
HB 855, filed by Rep. Daisy Morales, D-Orlando, was adopted by both chambers unanimously.
The bill allows barbers to provide services outside barbershops. “It doesn’t get rid of the license but now you won’t be restricted to operating only in a brick-and-mortar barbershop,” Pearson said.
HB 663, the Home Sweet Home Act, cosponsored by Reps. Michelle Salzman, R-Pensacola, and Adam Botana, R-Bonita Springs, passed the Senate 30-10 on April 29 and the House, 90-28, on session’s last day.
The bill reforms outdated Florida regulations on selling “shelf-stable” homemade food, or “cottage foods.”
“This is the first year this bill was introduced and there was so much support for it,” Pearson said. “More Floridians contacted me about the benefits of this bill than any other.”
The Institute may already have a case example to cite in 2022 lobbying efforts for further local preemption.
The Institute is representing a 71-year-old man assessed $30,000 in fines for not mowing the grass at a Dunedin home, a case that has drawn a lot of headlines statewide.
U.S. Middle District of Florida Court Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell last week upheld the fines levied against Jim Ficken, who could face foreclosure if he doesn’t pay them.
Pearson is not litigating the case, but said, “My colleagues are looking forward to arguing the appeal.”
As of yet, state lawmakers have not addressed the Dunedin tall-grass tale but, if history is prologue, there will likely be 2022 bills seeking to clip local government regulation of lawns, similar to 2019’s “garden variety” preemption bill.