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  • Florida’s Interior-Design Disaster

    We’ve all heard of the fashion police but probably assumed that was just a figure of speech.  It turns out, however, that if you don’t have the bureaucratic blessing of a license and yet deign to select drapes, recommend paintings, or (horrors!) place Persian rugs and decorative partitions for a non-residence in Florida, you could be sent to prison for up to one year.  Further, if you hire a person without a license to do these things for you, both of you could be sent to prison for up to one year.  Sadly, this is not a joke.

    Florida is one of a few states that have indeed outlawed the unlicensed practice of interior design.  The Florida legislature is currently reconsidering these prohibitions, but for the time being violators remain subject to prosecution and prison time.

    In fact, criminal laws on the books in Florida carry the potential of prison time for anyone who – without a state-issued license – goes into business to decorate your office, braid your hair, or arrange your flowers.  Maybe in some alternate universe arranging hair and flowers borders on criminal conduct (and florists’ holiday prices have certainly evoked comparisons to robbery).  But in this universe we should be forgiven if we fail to see grave threats to public health and safety from someone’s pulling your locks too tightly or unevenly or failing to intersperse sufficient baby’s breath and greenery in your bouquet.

    You need not rely on your own common sense or my word to conclude that unlicensed interior design causes no harm.  The Florida regulatory board who enforces the law told a federal court in writing that neither it nor the State of Florida could present “any evidence that licensing of interior designers has led to better job performance by interior designers, greater safety, fewer building code violations, or otherwise benefited the public in any demonstrable way.”  In other words, allowing Florida’s interior-design regulations to remain in place would be a victory only for an anti-competitive cartel and its lobbyists.

    Florida enacted its first law regulating individuals’ use of the term “interior designer” in 1988.  Whether they were engaged in interior design for homes or offices, unlicensed persons could no longer call themselves “interior designers” or offer to perform “interior design” services.  Then in 1994, Florida outlawed the unlicensed practice of interior design for non-residential clients of any size.

    As one might suspect, these laws were not spontaneous responses by a concerned legislature to hideously passé drapes and rugs, glaring abuses of track lighting, or other catastrophically bad taste.  A trade group, the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID), and its members lobbied for the 1988 and 1994 laws outlawing unlicensed interior designers.  These self-interested parties were careful to ensure that the original laws did not apply to them.  Thus, they successfully persuaded the Florida legislature to erect anti-competitive barriers to the entry of new competitors in their industry.

    This is not to say that the only parties benefitting from the regulations are members of the anti-competitive interior design cartel.  A private law firm has received over a half million dollars a year from the state to collect and investigate complaints from cartel members and present and prosecute cases at hearings.  Is it possible that when deciding whether and how aggressively to enforce an alleged violation, attorneys in a private law firm might have their judgment skewed by the money they are being paid to enforce the law?  But perhaps it should be no surprise that the anti-competitive and self-interested regulatory scheme for interior design ended up with a flawed, self-interested enforcement mechanism.

    Criminalization for protectionist purposes is immoral.  It trivializes and undermines Americans’ respect for the law and for the criminal justice system. Samuel Johnson probably did not foresee that one of the last refuges of self-interested scoundrels in the post-modern world would be the ability to criminalize whatever conduct they do not like, even socially and economically beneficial conduct that causes harm to no one.

    Legislators often seem to have forgotten that they can repeal bad laws.  Many state and federal laws and regulations are improperly motivated, dangerous, counter-productive, or all of the above.  Such backwards, anti-competitive policies are fit only for the legislative dumpster.

    Posted in Legal [slideshow_deploy]

    14 Responses to Florida’s Interior-Design Disaster

    1. West Texan says:

      I'll agree that "Many … federal laws and regulations are improperly motivated, dangerous, counter-productive, or all of the above." Let bad domestic policies be limited to the states. As a Texan-American, Florida's licensing requirements are not my concern. That's up to their residents. Vermont just passed a universal health care plan. Once again, such questionable legislation belongs at the state level. This is true federalism. We need a return to same for the healing of our country. We can no longer tolerate federal overreach into states' domestic affairs, the largest part being social entitlements.

    2. sam says:

      Thank you Brian for shinning light where it is needed and having the courage to do so.

    3. Leon Lundquist, Dura says:

      Brian! How perfectly crazy! Now, I have seen some real whoppers to come out of the den of Demo-crats. I watch the Heritage Site 'Overcriminalized' but this is the Fashion Police joke for real! Why would anybody ask for these kinds of laws, like Interior Design has to be prevented from burning down the house! Some kind of public safety issue has to be crossed or the Government has no right whatsoever to Regulate! Arrest Charlie the Tuna for Bad Taste? Taxpayers should pay for the enforcement?

      This is Government for the sake of Government! It has nothing to do with the Constitutional idea of what Government is! It is pure graft, pure corruption, obscene as, without any redeeming social value! I would have thought the Democrats had exploited every 'Low' that exists! This is a New Low, even for them! They Felonized the Misdemeaners! The created Thought Crimes! This is criminalizing Fashion, for real! So, can we expect even more Americans to be put in Jail for nothing at all? If this works in Florida? I feel sure the Obama Gang will exploit it, community organize it! "How about we license every activity in America?" A walk the dog license! A shopping license! You need a reading license! Or a writing license! "To be sure all Americans operate in Good Taste!"

      Now I really am Sorry, Charlie! We don't even care if Tuna's taste good! Tunas have to have a License!

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    5. Pingback: Florida’s Interior-Design Disaster - Heritage.org (blog) | The Art of Placement

    6. Mike Young Fort Pier says:

      I shudder to think at the test someone would be required to take in order to obtain an "Interior Decorators license".

      • H.Lenn says:

        Please read carefully: There is a difference between an Interior decorator and an interior designer. All a decorator needs to do to become a decorator is print business cards for him/her-self. In order for one to become an Interior designer, one must have a college degree in Interior Design and have passed a qualifying exam similar in difficulty to any bar exam a lawyer would have to take before being allowed to practice law. An interior designer is educated and trained to work will any and all aspects of a building's interior footprint only excluding load-bearing walls. They have to have a current working knowledge of building, fire, health, and safety codes. I doubt you'd trust someone without the proper training and licensing to redesign the electrical plan of your home or business, not to mention the plumbing, or knock out/build any interior walls. This law is especially necessary in Florida. You don't want any ol' yahoo with a good set of inkjet printer business cards and a convincing website coming in to "redesign" your grandmother's nursing home and unknowingly make it more difficult for the elderly to escape a fire in the name of esthetics. Licensing restrictions are put in place for a reason, and if you disagree with them, make sure you are well educated on the subject before you go hurling insults.

    7. J Griggs says:

      Ignorance is Bliss. Brian your article did not explain the difference (do you know?) between interior design and interior decorating, which is not regulated. Design deals with the structural, electrical and safety code integrity of the interior of construction. My husband was involved in a Federal felony prosecution for interior design in the mid 90s. The State Regulator was contacted but pleaded lack of jurisdiction because the fraudster was grandfathered before regulation with her fake unverified degree – she ripped unwitting customers for tons of false custom work, kickbacks and markups (which like Wallstreet is hard to prove). Your BLOG perpetuates ignorance.

    8. Marc Oberlin....idaN says:

      You are as misinformed as the sponsors of the ill-conceived HB5005 Professional Deregulation Bill. Registered Interior Designers in Florida can do only one thing that all the rest of the Interior Designers who require no certification or license of any kind. Registered Interior Designers can "sign and seal" documents as may be required by local building authorities. Interior Design Registration has nothing to do with decorating. It is there to insure that designers who are working on code restrictive commercial projects know what they are doing and that is all. Without registration, only architects will be allowed to do this work. HB5005 was going to eliminate jobs, not create them. Our registration statutes were created in part to provide competition and choice for consumers who were hitherto required to use an architect.The state Senate killed the bill and with good cause.

    9. jeanette says:

      The test one has to take to become an interior designer is actually two full days and very detailed. Plus there are minimum education and practice requirements. This article makes light of what designers really do. My understanding of this law is not that you can't pick out a rug without going to jail but that anyone who is in the role of doing design work needs the proper education. This law is meant so that designers can actually practice what they have learned…instead of having to find a contractor or an architect to "approve" their decisions. You will still be able to get your "free design service" at your local dept store but this law does make it known that the retail sales person working on commission may or may not have the same skills as someone who has gone to school. However, if you need to redo your home so that an aging parent will be less likely to fall, or if you need a kitchen remodel that will save you time every day from your schedule, or if you need to make a small space feel bigger and do more, you may want someone that actually has some experience and expertise beyond "my friends always asked me to help them with their home because they liked what I did with mine" or "I am really good at getting people to buy". I once solved a little girl's nightmares and improved her grades with a can of paint. Does the paint guy at your local store know how to do that? Nope. Does the "specialist" at the retail store you go to know what colors can cause depression or raise your blood pressure? There's a lot more to this "design business" than "making it pretty".

    10. Bobbie says:

      Jeanette, my understanding of the law is it's imposition is unnecessarily put on independent and free people just for control over. It's existence is demeaning and condescending of what people can do for themselves.

    11. R. Dominguez says:

      J Griggs – Your comment "Design deals with the structural, electrical and safety code integrity of the interior of construction" is not correct. Those matters are for Architects, Structural Engineers and MEP Engineers. That does not fall under the "Interior Designer" but I will agree with you on your latter statement. Those who were grandfathered in should be required to take the exam as anybody who has the "Experiance Background" in order to prove competence.

      Mr. Oberlin – Your comment regarding Interior Design signing and sealing is incorrect. Only an Architect or Engineer may sign and seal. HB 5005 was regected by the Senate on because they were not allowed to properly Vet the bill. In other words, The House tried to ram it down the Senate without time for proper discussion. The so called interior design law as it stands is unfair and unjust when you consider that 60% of regestered interior designers where grandfathered in the mid 90's without the proper credentials as required today.

      On that I refer to J Griggs later comment.

    12. Concerned Nevada Res says:

      THis is not just a Florida concern. In the state of Nevada, aggressive legislation limiting and controlling the practice of interior design continues as well. Currenly, non-licensed individuals may not act in any manner whatsoever that could be consutrued to prividing "design" services without fear of punishment. Example: two guys sitting at a bar. One is talking to the other about remodeling his kitchen at home. The other sketches on the back of a napkin a possible "solution" to a problem. Under the laws in this state, that constitutes the practice of architecture without a license and the individual, if caught, could be fined up to $10,000.00. A person selling business furniture in this state cannot do furniture layouts, nor select finishes for those furnishings without having majority ownership in the busines AND having a license as an architect or interior designer! Architects who want to use the services of non-licensed individuals–like furniture dealers, must provide them a letter indicating that they are knowingly using the services of someone who is not licensed and that they (the architect) assumes 100% liability for the end result and will maintain majority control over the project! The state has created a broad with full powers to investigate these types of actions and impose fines and other penalties–there is no method in place to challenge the boards findings, apeal a decision, etc. What is happening in Florida is occuring elsewhere, but without fanfare. It's just plain wrong! What is next?

    13. Ryan says:

      For the love of God. An Interior DESIGNER is not the same as an Interior DECORATOR. How about doing a bit of research? An Interior Designer doesn't just pick nice carpets for you. They also handle plumbing and electrical wiring, make sure jointing and millwork are done right, and ensure that the correct construction materials are used for your room.

      Do you know what happens when an unqualified mook installs laminates for flooring? Do you know much damage, dollars wise, can be caused by improperly located sinks or windows? Maybe the next time you need to restructure an entire room because of a bad leak or a wiring issue, you'll realize it's a good idea to see some permits.

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