- - Wednesday, December 14, 2016

For the second consecutive year, state Sen. Jeff Brandes will be taking on Florida’s cosmetics regulations, hoping to have more success in 2017 than he did in 2016.

On the surface, the conservative St. Petersburg Republican seems an odd fit for the state makeup industry — but the deregulatory effort is more substance than style. Mr. Brandes is the first state lawmaker to address for the upcoming session Florida’s robust restrictions on occupations and businesses that otherwise would have low barriers to entry.

His recently filed bill would eliminate registration and renewal requirements, along with the associated fees, for cosmetic products manufactured in the state. If successful, the bill would open the door for small-scale companies.

According to the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit public interest law firm, Florida has one of the most restrictive regulatory environments in the country, stifling job creation, artificially reducing competition and raising consumer prices.

“The state enforces burdensome laws that deter entry into 45 of the 102 low- and moderate-income occupations surveyed,” according to the IJ study that surveyed cosmetics and other job areas.

Under current law, cosmetic entrepreneurs must have active permits issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s Division of Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics. Every product must be registered and renewed every two years, changing a product’s packaging also requires a registration renewal, and all products must be registered before they can be sold.

The state also issues a “certificate of free sale” certifying that a cosmetic product is properly registered with the correct regulatory body and can be legally purchased.

According to a legislative analysis, the DBPR collects $222,000 a year just from cosmetics licensing — money that could stay in the pockets of cash-strapped entrepreneurs.

According to Mr. Brandes, it’s too much regulation, especially considering these rules don’t apply to cosmetic products sold in Florida, but made outside the state.

“Florida requires each manufactured product to be individually registered and listed even if all we’re doing is changing the color of that product. This bill would bring Florida in line with many other states as far as regulation and with federal standards on this issue,” he said.

The rollback attempt died in an appropriations committee on the last day of the 2016 session. Determined to see it through, Mr. Brandes filed an identical bill last week that will be considered next year.

The justification for the registration scheme, among other occupational licensing requirements for more than 320 vocations and business categories, is that they are necessary “to safeguard public health and promote public welfare.”

The same agency that requires constant cosmetic product registrations also requires cosmetologists to obtain a license in order to work legally, a license that doesn’t come cheaply.

According to the state Board of Cosmetology — a panel of five licensed regulators, two consumer members and a government lawyer — workers must attend a minimum of 1,200 hours of educational instruction, equivalent to 20 hours a week for 12 months and successfully complete a two-part exam.

It isn’t cheap. Accredited cosmetology schools can cost at least $10,000, according to the American Association of Cosmetology Schools. Paul Mitchell Schools, a popular Tampa program, runs $12,500 for tuition and $3,000 for textbooks and supplies.

Consumer safety is the ostensible justification, but a new study by the Reason Foundation and Florida State University says the justification simply doesn’t wash.

“Many of the licensing requirements are often proposed by the licensed industries themselves (this is true nationwide) and their most obvious effect is to restrict competition and raise prices — benefiting those already in the business, not consumers,” the study says.

Researchers Matthew Laird, Adrian Moore and Samuel Staley found that few of the regulated occupations for which Florida requires licenses are licensed in all states. “Many other states have not seen consumer harms in occupations that would justify these requirements,” they note.

An Obama administration review of 12 different studies regarding occupational regulations arrived at the same conclusion.

“Overall, the empirical research does not find large improvements in quality or health and safety from more stringent licensing. In fact, in only two out of the 12 studies was greater licensing associated with quality improvements,” the White House report said.

Watchdog.org is a project of the Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility.

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