Occupational Licensing

Florida Just Passed the Most Sweeping Occupational Licensing Reform in History

The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act "will save thousands of Floridians both time and money for years to come," says Gov. Ron DeSantis.


Sweeping reforms signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday will loosen or abolish occupational licensing regulations across more than 30 professions, cutting red tape for potentially thousands of workers in the state.

The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act, which cleared the state legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year, "will save thousands of Floridians both time and money for years to come," DeSantis said in a statement announcing his signing of the bill.

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia (R–Spring Hill), the bill's sponsor, called it the largest license deregulation effort in Florida history. According to the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that advocates for licensing reform and sues states over unfair licensing laws, Florida's House Bill 1193 (H.B. 1193) might be an even bigger deal. In a statement, the institute said the bill "repeals more occupational licensing laws than any licensing reform ever passed by any other state."

The bill fully repeals some of the state's most unnecessary licensing laws, including those that previously governed interior designers, hair braiders, and boxing match timekeepers. It loosens the state's cosmetology licensing laws to allow a wide range of hair and nail styling activities to take place outside of licensed salons—a particularly timely reform in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, as it will pave the way for stylists to make house calls.

Dieticians and nutritionists will be able to work without fear of being targetted by sting operations and threatened with jail time simply for the supposed crime of giving out tips about healthy eating. The new law will allow "any person who provides information, wellness recommendations, or advice concerning nutrition" to do so without a license as long as they do not provide those services to individuals under the direct care of a physician for medical reasons, or advertise themselves as medical professionals.

The bill also eliminates separate business licenses for architects, geologists, and landscape architects who already hold individual licenses in those fields. (Although that does raise the question of why geologists and landscape architects need to be licensed in the first place; hopefully DeSantis will get around to fixing that next.)

Importantly, the new law follows on some reforms passed by Arizona last year to expand the recognition of out-of-state licenses. Barbers and cosmetologists licensed in other states will be allowed to practice their trades in Florida without having to get re-licensed, and the law instructs the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation to begin the process of identifying other professions where similar reciprocity could be offered.

The new law also clears up a longstanding disagreement over whether state or local officials control the licensing process for food trucks by placing health and safety issues under state authority. Local officials will still be able to keep food trucks out of certain areas with zoning laws, but they won't be able to pile additional licensing requirements on top of existing state rules to block vendors from operating. Florida is just the third state to pass such a law, according to the Institute for Justice.

"Florida's reform will fuel economic growth and open up opportunity to entry-level entrepreneurs throughout the state," says Scott Bullock, president of the Institute for Justice.

Licensing reform is on the agenda in many state capitols. More than 1,000 licensing reform bills were introduced last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, which tracks state-level legislation. But lawmakers everywhere are now chasing Florida, which has raised the bar for what should be considered achievable.