Fla. House passes bill to deregulate 19 industries

Professions, businesses and occupations that would be deregulated under House Bill 5005.

■ Athlete agents

■ Auctioneers and auctioneer apprentices

■ Sellers of business opportunities

■ Charitable organizations

■ Hair braiders, hair wrappers, and body wrappers

■ Dance studios

■ Health studios

■ Interior designers

■ Intrastate movers

■ Motor vehicle repair shops

■ Sellers of travel

■ Talent agents

■ Telemarketing

■ Yacht and ship brokers

■ Transportation access to outdoor theaters

■ Roominghouses

■ Sales representative contracts involving commissions

■ Television tube labeling

■ Water vending machines

— Russell Vernay’s moving business is the product of deregulation.

The Household Goods Transportation Act of 1980 opened up the moving business nationwide, throwing open the doors to smaller companies like his Fort Myers-based Vernay Van Lines, while reducing prices for consumers.

“It made it more competitive,” said Vernay, whose family has been in the moving business for four generations. “It was capitalism at its true nature.”

But Vernay is no fan of a deregulation bill passed by the Florida House on Thursday, which would end state oversight of 19 industries, including intrastate movers. House Bill 5005 was passed on a 77 to 38 vote, largely along party lines, with most Republicans voting in favor.

Vernay said the legislation would allow big companies from out of state to come into Florida and take away the corporate work that is the backbone of his business.

“Big business has found a way around the original purpose of deregulation,” Vernay said.

Supporters of the legislation say it will slash red tape in Florida, making the state more business-friendly, encouraging investment and creating jobs, while maintaining consumer protections. They argue that many of the regulations in question are nothing more requirements that businesses pay an annual fee and register with the state, which provides little oversight.

It would save the private sector about $11.3 million annually, said Rep. Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, the bill’s sponsor.

“State regulation is intended to protect health, safety and welfare,” Hukill said. “Unnecessary government regulation hurt businesses and cost consumers more money. Small business owners and entrepreneurs are in a constant struggle with government red tape that serves no purpose except to restrict economic growth.”

Opponents of the bill painted a picture of Florida run amok with scammers, charlatans, and shake-down artists ready to take advantage of unsuspecting residents and tourists who would have few state protections, and fewer avenues for recourse.

“At the end of the day it puts the people of our state at great risk,” said Rep. Leonard Bembry, D-Greenville.

The professions and occupations deregulated by the bill include athlete agents, talent agents, hair braiders, interior designers, dance studios, telemarketers and automobile repair shops.

Interior design lobbyists have fought the legislation tooth and nail, saying their profession is about more than just selecting color and furniture. Bad designs utilizing bad materials could put people’s lives at risk, they said.

It would also hurt professionals who spent thousands of dollars to go to school to obtain a license, they said.

Florida is one of only three states that regulates commercial interior designers, according to Politifact Florida.

During a floor session on Wednesday, Ron Saunders, the Democratic minority leader from Key West, introduced individual amendments to strip each profession from the bill. Each of his amendments failed.

Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, said the professions included in the bill were chosen because they have been successful in other states without regulations, and because they’ve had few infractions in Florida. The regulations simply erect barriers to entry into an industry, he said.

“It’s a way for you to chase away competition, to exclude competitors from coming in and opening up against you,” Caldwell said.

Deregulating talent agencies could put young people at risk, Saunders argued.

“The reason for this original regulation was there were a lot of abuses,” Saunders said. “We had pedophiles out there taking pictures of our kids, and using them on the internet or whatever. This deregulation would open up this area to anybody.”

Opponents of the bill also argued that deregulating auto repair shops would swell the number of shops in the state, some of which could be run by unscrupulous managers who employ unskilled mechanics. They warned of scams, unauthorized repairs and inflated bills.

Johnny Nocera, owner of the Naples-based Supreme Auto, said customers will still be protected. All the bill would do, he said, is remove a registration requirement that he said is nothing more than unneeded bureaucracy.

“When you’re in a world … of business that you’re pretty much regulated on just about everything you do, and just about taxed on everything you do, when you see something like this, it’s kind of comforting,” Nocera said.

Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said opponents of the bill haven’t looked at the facts. Registration requirements, which the bill would eliminate, are not the same as regulation, he said.

“When you create just an additional registration that has no meaningful impact, why have it? That’s what we’re trying to do, eliminate those things,” Hudson said. “I think it’s very important to look at removing those barriers from people being innovators and entrepreneurs, and making sure we look at existing businesses and try to allow their lives to be a little bit easier.”

_Connect with Ryan Mills at www.naplesnews.com/staff/ryan-mills/

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