FILE - Sen. Keith Perry, Florida, 2019

Sen. Oscar Braynon, D-Miami Gardens, confers with Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, during debate on Tuesday April 23, 2019 in the Florida Senate in Tallahassee, Fla. 

(The Center Square) – The three-year Florida "deregathon" continues during the 2021 legislative session with companion Senate-House bills preempting local governments from regulating journeyman trades licenses on the cusp of adoption.

Senate Bill 268, sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, passed through the Senate Rules Committee Tuesday, securing its third public hearing endorsement and advancing to the Senate floor.

SB 268’s House companion, House Bill 735, sponsored by Rep Joe Harding, R-Ocala, was approved by the House Thursday in an 82-32 mostly-partisan vote, but has not yet been officially transmitted to the Senate for review.

SB 268/HB 735 would preempt local occupation licensing with the exception of those authorized under 2020’s Occupational Freedom & Opportunity Act or imposed by a local government before July 1, when the measure goes into effect.

Florida lawmakers in their 2020 session adopted the 94-page Occupational Freedom & Opportunity Act, which trimmed state and local licensing requirements and fees for more than 440,000 people working in a wide range of businesses.

SB 268/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).

Under SB 268/HB 735, local governments could not require a license for painting, flooring, cabinetry, interior remodeling, driveway or tennis court installation, decorative stone, tile, marble, granite, or terrazzo installation, plastering, stuccoing, caulking, and canvas awning or ornamental iron installation.

During Tuesday’s SB 268 hearing before the Senate Rules Committee, Perry reiterated that his proposal is a “pro-little-guy bill” that would prevent local governments from piling on fees and other costs topping more than $200 on a trades practitioner trying to earn a living.

“This is for the little guy that can’t do that, can’t get licenses and everything, maybe wants a side job, maybe wants to have a little business and have their son and daughter work in their business and learn how to run a small little side-job business,” he said.

Under the bills, Perry said, local governments could still create “journeyman” requirements and keep existing occupational requirements until July 2023.

The proposal is supported by the Florida Institute of Justice and Americans for Prosperity and opposed by labor unions, the Florida Association of Counties (FAC) and the Florida League of Cities.

FAC lobbyist Edward Labrador argued counties require occupational licenses for consumer protection.

“We’re not trying to deny people access into these occupations,” he said. “We’re trying to make sure that they’re properly experienced to engage in these occupations.”

Referring to the ongoing crisis at the Piney Point gypsum stack pond breach, Sierra Club Florida’s David Cullen said since 2007, 14 counties and 100 municipalities in the state have created occupational requirements related to water quality, which is critical in protecting water supplies and ecosystems.

“Because watersheds are different, it has made every sense to take a watershed-by- watershed approach to fully consider the unique needs and circumstances of each community,” Cullen said.

Perry said the state has created five water management districts to regulate water by hydrological boundaries and local regulation is often redundant.

“Water doesn’t go by artificial boundaries that are set up by cities and towns and counties,” Perry said. “We have an issue with fertilizer or other water quality issues in one town, more than likely it’s going to affect the next town, so these are the things that we have a duty and obligation to look at from a statewide standpoint.”