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How Red Tape Ties Up Hurricane Recovery | Stock News & Stock Market Analysis

Not long after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in Green Cove Springs, Fla., Jack Roundtree rode his barbecue food truck into town to feed hungry residents and provide free meals to utility workers. But because he didn’t have a permit to operate in Green Cove Springs, it wasn’t long before the police showed up and demanded he leave town.

The mayor later said that Roundtree should have obtained permission from city officials — something easier said than done, given that City Hall was closed at the time due to the hurricane.

This story is just one example of how government can often be more hindrance than help in the wake of a natural disaster. The hardest-hit communities in Texas and Florida are bracing for a yearslong recoveries, and senseless state occupational licensing laws, coupled with our current growth-stifling federal tax code, will make their task even harder.

While we wait for Congress to act on tax reform, our states should act swiftly to remove government-imposed obstacles to recovery. They should start by dumping the occupational licensing laws that are making it harder and more expensive to rebuild.

As Floridians face the monumental task of repairing homes and buildings damaged by Hurricane Irma, construction workers will be in short supply. That’s because of irrational state restrictions on who is allowed to perform even basic remodeling and construction work.

Before workers may legally repair a roof or rebuild a carport, they need a license from the state — a requirement that comes with significant hurdles. Applicants must demonstrate four years of work or education in a related field, pass an exam, and pay over $400 in fees to obtain their license. It’s all spelled out in a nearly 60,000-word chapter of the state code.

As if that weren’t enough, individual counties impose rules of their own. In Miami-Dade, where 70 mph winds knocked down power lines and caused two construction cranes to collapse, the list of licensed professions is longer still.

Whether you want to replace a fence, install a storm door or simply repaint someone’s walls, you will need to demonstrate one year of experience and pay $630 in fees.

It’s difficult to see what is accomplished by making workers jump through these hoops, besides simply driving up labor costs. Economic studies overwhelmingly conclude that licensing has little or no impact on quality and safety standards.

Florida officials recognize the burden that these laws impose, and they have already suspended certain licensing requirements and related regulations in disaster-struck counties.

Apparently, even the government knows that these rules are not essential to the well-being of Floridians. These temporary suspensions are helpful, but it would be better to do away with these pointless regulations altogether.

For inspiration, Florida should look to Texas, which has comparably light licensing restrictions. Texans do not need licenses to perform straightforward projects like installing drywall or repairing roofs, and where licensing is enforced, the requirements are far less onerous.

That said, when A/C technicians must have more than 1,000 days of education and experience to get a license in the Lone Star State, there is progress to be made.

Texans and Floridians are up to the challenge of rebuilding their communities, but broken laws will stand in their way.

To assist in the recovery, government at the local, state and federal level should use every tool in the tool kit. That includes eliminating pointless regulations that impede recovery efforts and Congress finally delivering on tax reform — to spark job growth in areas hurt by the recent storms. If our legislators truly wish to help hurricane victims, these are two great places to start.

  • Hudson is the Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.
  • Greener is Texas state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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