In a lean budget year, the best way for the state to save money and give an economic boost to Florida’s working poor is to repeal or amend heavy-handed legislation that blocks employment or access to health care and criminalizes addiction. That’s the conclusion of The James Madison Institute (JMI), as argued in a series of issue briefs in the conservative, free-market think tank’s latest edition of The Journal.
JMI Vice President of Policy Sal Nuzzo and JMI President Dr. Bob McClure urged the Legislature to take the following steps when it convenes next month in order to stimulate Florida’s economy, reduce the burden on taxpayers, and create growth opportunities for Florida’s working poor:
● Increase health care access by giving physical therapists direct access to patients, allowing nurse practitioners and physician assistants a broader scope of practice, and allowing pharmacists to prescribe medication. Greater utilization of nonphysician health care professionals will help fill the gap expected as a result of Florida’s projected physician shortage – a gap of more than 4,500 doctors over the next 20 years – while increasing access to care.
● Eliminate unnecessary occupational licensing that creates barriers to employment in certain jobs such as cosmetologists, massage therapists, aestheticians, athletic trainers, manicurists, pest control workers, private detectives, and veterinary technicians. Florida is the fourth-most burdensome state in imposing occupational regulations, with licensing costs that impose the equivalent of a tax on service workers attempting to pursue new career opportunities.
● Restore judicial discretion for drug sentencing, ending minimum mandatory sentences for low-level, nonviolent offenses; raise Florida’s felony theft threshold; and reduce the number of offenses for which a driver’s license can be suspended. These reforms would produce substantial savings for the state – corrections spending is the third-largest portion of Florida’s budget, and minimum mandatory sentencing of drug offenders drives $106 million in spending. Florida’s felony theft threshold, which hasn’t been changed in more than 30 years, is just $300, compared with $2,500 in Texas. Additionally, Florida statutes are filled with non-driving offenses that result in driver’s license suspensions. Someone could be convicted of a felony for stealing a cell phone or incarcerated for failing to pay fines or fees or driving with a suspended license.
“Especially in a year when dollars are scarce the Florida Legislature should take commonsense steps to reduce regulations that create barriers to employment or health care,” said Nuzzo. “And smart-on-crime criminal justice reforms will reduce incarcerations in Florida, thereby reducing associated costs and preserving families in the process.”
The Journal is available HERE.
The James Madison Institute is Florida’s premier free-market think tank. JMI conducts research on such issues as health care, taxes, and regulatory environments. Founded in 1987, JMI is one of the nation’s oldest and largest 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan research and educational organizations.