Occupational Licensing

Protecting Workers in the Free State of Florida

ALEC will be hosting its 50th Annual Meeting in Florida later this year, and with it will come the quintessential ALEC forums for exchanging and debating solid state policy solutions. Florida is already proving itself a perfect host as its legislature considers reforms aimed at fostering economic growth and protecting workers’ rights.

As mentioned in a previous ALEC blog, the universal recognition of occupational licenses is a popular policy that continues to be adopted by states across the nation. Twenty states have already passed such reforms, and four more states have introduced similar bills as well this year. Florida is one of them.

Florida State Senator Jay Collins and Florida State Representative Traci Koster are sponsoring SB 1364 and HB 1333, which would require Florida’s licensing boards to issue occupational licenses to experienced workers from other states. Workers would need to have been licensed in another state for a year or more to receive a Florida license for an occupation with a similar scope of practice. This requirement—and the provisions that allow the licensing boards to require a worker to pass a proficiency exam—help to ensure Florida is only issuing licenses to qualified workers.

Importantly, the bills also recognize both professional certifications and work experience as substitutes for an out-of-state license—if the worker comes from a state that does not license the specific occupation. A worker with three years of work experience or two years of experience and a professional certification would be able to receive a Florida license for an occupation with a similar scope of practice. These provisions ensure that workers who come from states with less occupational oversight are not penalized.

Due to the bills’ intentionally broad language, military veterans will also be able to have their skills and expertise recognized. Senator Collins, who is retired U.S. Army Green Beret, highlighted how important this inclusion is, explaining that his bill remedies the licensing recognition problem for veteran families by ensuring “that those exiting the military will be welcomed to enter into our growing workforce.”

ALEC’s Model Interstate-Mobility and Universal-Recognition Occupational Licensing Act similarly supports recognizing all three modes of proving work competency. Like the Florida bills, if a worker has certain experience and/or credentials for a job with a similar “scope of practice,” then the worker can receive an occupational license from the new state. Reforms like this model policy and the Florida bills do exactly what Representative Koster explained: “allow new [state] residents… to use their pre-existing skills, enter the workforce unimpeded, and help… businesses expand to meet the growing demand for labor.”

Florida’s pro-worker proposals do not end there. Supported by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and sponsored by Florida State Representative Dean Black, HB 1445 (and SB 256) would implement several reforms aimed at helping public sector workers, including protecting their freedom of speech and association. For example, Section 1 of the bills requires public sector workers to sign a specific “membership authorization form” to join a union, and it requires the form to include a specific statement expressing public workers’ First Amendment right to freely associate or not associate with a union. Section 3 bans most public employers from deducting any union dues or fees from workers’ paychecks, thereby ensuring taxpayer dollars are not used to conduct union business. Section 4 includes a process for requiring a union to apply for recertification if union membership drops below 60% of workers “eligible for representation in the bargaining unit.”

ALEC has model policies that address all these topics. The Public Employee Rights and Authorization Act requires public sector workers to provide affirmative consent to activate a union membership, and it requires the form to clearly state workers’ right to join or not join a union. The Political Funding Reform Act forbids any government resources from being used “to collect or assist in the collection of political funds… on behalf of any private individual or organization.” The Union Recertification Act addresses public sector union recertification, though it has slightly different requirements than the Florida bills. It requires public sector unions to recertify via secret ballot if membership drops below 50% and every even year after the reform goes into effect.

 Unsurprisingly, Florida, which ranked 1st in Economic Performance and 9th in Economic Outlook in ALEC’s Rich States Poor States,  continues to see net positive migration from other states as more Americans continue to be drawn by Florida’s strong economy and common sense, free market-friendly state laws. Reforms like those listed above signal that Florida values and welcomes hardworking Americans who want to bring their skill and experience to Florida’s job market, economy, and communities. Or, as Senator Collins stated, “in the Free State of Florida, we welcome all Americans who come here to live, work, and play.”