After more than two hours of testimony and debate -- more time than was spent on the House's $66.5 billion budget -- the House Appropriations committee on Wednesday voted 15-8 in favor of a bill that would deregulate 20 professions. The vote was along party lines, with Republicans supporting the measure. Among the businesses affected: Commercial interior designer, auto repair shops, auctioneers, charities, intrastate movers and hair braiders.
Supporters of the bill, which will drain state coffers of more than $6 million and result in more than 100 layoffs, say it's good for business. Opponents say it is a threat to public safety.
Ninety people signed up to speak before the House panel on the issue, most of them interior design students who feared the time and money they spent in college working on design degrees would be wasted. Some broke down in tears as they spoke.
"A lot of you have jobs. We don't. We have dreams," said LLilian Perez, who traveled to Tallahassee from Miami with about 20 fellow students. "Please help us."
Their pleas seemed to work. Rep. Ron Saunders, D-Key West, said an amendment would be introduced on the House floor to remove interior designers from the proposal. Two Republican representatives, Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers, and Paige Kreegel, R-Punta Gorda, said they, too, would like to see Florida continue to regulate and license commercial interior designers.
"If you deregulate interior designers, I would find it very hard for my structural engineering firm to be able to hold a designer or interior designer accountable if they didn't have the license behind them, if they didn't have the professional liability behind them," Williams said.
Panel members also expressed concerns about deregulating yacht and ship brokers, auctioneers, auto repair shops and hair braiders.
Bill sponsor Dorothy Hukill, R-Port Orange, said many of the professions slated for loosening from regulation get little to no oversight by state officials.
"We need to distinguish between what is almost a pure registration and what is regulation," she said. When choosing what professions to deregulate, the committees that moved the bill forward considered public safety along with helping commerce, she said.
More than 60 different areas were examined, and the original bill called for deregulating about 30 professions. But some, including barbers, landscape architects, surveyors and geologists, were removed.