Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act: The Changing Landscape of Professional Regulation in the Construction Industry
On June 30, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis signed “The Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act” into law. The purpose of the act is to eliminate barriers of entry into positions licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) by adding endorsement and reciprocity provisions, removing supplemental business licenses and their fees, reducing licensure education requirements, and eliminating other licensure and registration requirements.
The act also created section 2278 in Chapter 455, which prohibits suspension or revocation of a license if the only reason for doing so is default or delinquency on student loan payments or satisfaction of a work-conditional scholarship.
Endorsement and Reciprocity
The act adds a new section to Chapter 455 of the Florida Statutes, which requires the DBPR or other boards created under it (including the Construction Industry Licensing Board (CILB) and Electrical Contractors Licensing Board (ECLB)) to enter into reciprocal licensing agreements with other states if the practice act for the professions permits it; the act also requires the DBPR to post on its website which jurisdictions have such reciprocal licensing agreements or substantially similar licenses.
Currently, the CILB does not have reciprocal licensing agreements with any other state. The CILB, however, has listed the California General Contractor and Building Contractor exams as well as the Georgia Pollutant Storage Contractor exam to be substantially similar to Florida’s exams. Additionally, the CILB lists the NASCLA General Contractors Exam (post-2009) as being substantially similar to all Florida Division 1 license trade knowledge exams (General, Building, Roofing, and related specialty Contractors.) The ECLB, on the other hand, currently has reciprocity with North Carolina for Unlimited Electrical and Low Voltage Licenses. Florida will also accept an Electrical C-10 license from California.
Applicants who have taken a substantially similar exam must then refer to the Endorsement application requirements, which include passing the Florida Business & Finance exam.
Changes to Chapter 489 – Contracting
No License Required for Small Jobs
Section 103 of Chapter 489 has been changed by the act to remove the licensure requirement for work of a casual, minor, or inconsequential nature where the aggregate contract price is less than $2,500. This is more than a two-fold increase from the previous maximum for unlicensed work of $1,000. The relaxation of the requirement that minor work be completed by a licensed professional, however, does not apply to attempts to perform larger work with multiple contracts all less than $2,500 – when considering the need for licensure, the value of all work to be completed in a project is added together to determine the total.
Exemptions from Examination
Chapter 489, section 111 was changed by the act to allow that any applicant who is exempt from examination under 489.113(1) is eligible for licensure. If an applicant has received a baccalaureate degree in building construction from an accredited four-year college with a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, the applicant must only pass the business and finance portion of the examination.
Section 115 has changed the requirements for the DBPR to certify applicants as qualified for certification by endorsement. An applicant who has held a valid license to practice contracting issued by another state for ten years before the date of application is eligible to be certified by endorsement if applying for the same or a similar license. The DBPR can also consider the applicant’s technical competence to ensure the applicant is able to meet the requirements of Florida’s codes and standards for wind mitigation and water intrusion. This application for certification by endorsement must be made either while the license is active in another state or within two years of when the license was last active. Division I contractors and roofing contractors must also complete a two-hour course (which may be completed online) on the Florida Building Code, which includes information on wind mitigation techniques.
The act has also changed Section 511 to allow for certification by endorsement for any applicant who has held a valid license to practice electrical or alarm system contracting issued by another state for at least ten years before the date of application if applying for the same or a similar license. Electrical and alarm system contractors applying for certification by endorsement must also apply while the license in another state is active or within two years of the last date the license was active and must complete a two-hour course on the Florida Building Code, which may be completed online.
Renewal of Certificates and Registration
The act has also reduced the requirements for continuing education for certificate holders and registrants licensed as specialty or alarm system contractors. The 14 classroom-hour requirement every two years has been replaced by a seven classroom-hour requirement for continuing education courses. The seven-hour requirement for continuing education on technical subjects has also been reduced to one hour.
Electrical contractors must now provide proof to the DBPR that the certificate holder or registrant has completed at least 11 classroom-hours every two years since the issuance or renewal of their certificate or registration. Seven of the minimum 11 classroom-hours must be on technical subjects, one hour on workers’ compensation, one hour on workplace safety, and one hour on business contractors. Electrical contractors also engaged in alarm system contracting must also complete two hours on false alarm prevention.
Governor Ron DeSantis lauded the act as “delivering on those reforms with a comprehensive and meaningful bill that will save thousands of Floridians both time and money for years to come.” The act is expected to reduce expenditures to applicants and license holders by approximately $1,466,318 over the next two fiscal years and reduce expenditures to the state by $58,680 over the same time. The bill has removed many hurdles for contractors seeking to move their established business and reputation from states with similar licensing requirements to Florida and has provided relief to those seeking recertification and renewal of licenses by removing hours of time-commitments to in-class learning.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.