Make us your home page
Instagram

Real knock-down, drag-out fight in Florida is over commercial interior design

An interior design student from Miami Dade College who had traveled from Kendall speaks about the need for licensing.

Miami Dade College

An interior design student from Miami Dade College who had traveled from Kendall speaks about the need for licensing.

TALLAHASSEE — The young woman stepped to the podium, eager for a chance to address Florida lawmakers.

"I came to this country for two reasons. I came for freedom, and I also came for a dream, a dream which you want to take away from me," LLilian Perez said, her voice shaking. "You just don't care. I see your faces."

You might expect such passion to be about education, taxes or immigration.

Her plea? Save interior design.

Forget about the tussles between unions and lawmakers, the Legislature and governor, Democrats and Republicans.

The real knock-down, drag-out fight this session is over commercial interior design.

Tears and cheers have punctuated hours of testimony as licensed interior designers warn lawmakers that lives will be lost to flammable fabrics and paints if they don't keep regulation of the profession in place.

"Buildings do not burn. Interiors do," Gail Griffin, a professor at Miami Dade College's School of Architecture and Interior Design, told the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

She scolded the panel for their ignorance.

"Do you know the color schemes that affect your salivation, your autonomic nervous system?" she said. "You don't even have correct seating. And somebody chose that for you."

Deregulation of the profession is covered in a massive House bill intended to boost the economy by ending regulation of about 20 professions, including auto repair shops, hair braiders, charities and intrastate movers.

The thinking is that getting rid of regulations will save business owners money on fees and make it easier for new people to set up shop. It's part of the end-job-killing-regulations mantra from Republicans.

But no deregulation proposal has generated more controversy in Florida than the one targeting interior design.

Ninety people signed up to speak at Wednesday's hearing about HB 5005, including dozens of interior design students who fought back sobs as they talked about worrying they had wasted time and money on degrees.

Others highlighted the potential for bad design to result in materials being used for weapons in prisons, flooring that causes falls and fabrics that lead to death.

"Part of my job is to ensure the finishes that I select cannot be made into weapons," Terra Sherlock, a licensed interior designer from Tallahassee, told lawmakers. "We do that in jails, and we do that in schools."

A couple of weeks ago, Tampa interior designer Michelle Earley told the House Business and Consumer Affairs Subcommittee that her expertise means she knows to avoid fabrics that contribute to the spread of hospital-acquired infections.

"By not allowing interior designers to be specialists and focus on the things they do, what you're basically doing is contributing to 88,000 deaths every year," she said.

Unlicensed designers argue that regulations stifle competition and keep the industry in the hands of a greedy cartel.

Pat Levenson of Lake Worth said she wanted to be an interior designer her whole life and returned to school to earn a degree in the field.

"I had no idea that Florida required a government license just to call yourself an interior designer," she said. "I came to realize that the licensing scheme had nothing to do with protecting the public and everything to do with protecting the industry and designers from fair competition from people like me."

The House panel spent more time Wednesday on this issue than on the $66 billion budget proposal.

Florida is one of only three states that requires a license to practice commercial interior design. Currently, 4,203 individuals and businesses hold such licenses. Getting one requires six years of education and experience, passing a national exam, a $30 application fee and biennial $125 licensing fee.

High-powered lobbyists have been hired on both sides, but the appeals of licensed designers appear to be gaining traction.

Several representatives, including two Republicans, have said they want designers out of the proposal.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, said he has been surprised by the intense passion and it has convinced him the profession needs to remain regulated.

"Interior design is more than just selecting a color and a piece of furniture," he said.

"It's knowing the psychological impact of carpeting, and how carpeting affects the work environment and the living environment. There's something to be said when you walk into a doctor's office and the environment puts you at ease in your moment of illness and discomfort. It's not fun when people get sick because of selection," Rouson said.

Edward Nagorsky, director of legislative affairs for the National Kitchen and Bath Association, said those concerns are unfounded.

"They make it sound like it's so difficult, it's so complicated and it takes years of experience. It doesn't," he said, noting retailers sell products specifically designed for commercial spaces.

"It's a cartel because these licensed designers are fighting for regulations to keep other people from entering the field," Nagorsky said.

The next stop for the bill is the House floor, which one expects is covered in flame-resistant carpet.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Real knock-down, drag-out fight in Florida is over commercial interior design 03/31/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 12:36pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. DOT shows alternatives to former Tampa Bay Express toll lanes

    Transportation

    TAMPA — State transportation officials are evaluating at least a half-dozen alternatives to the controversial Tampa Bay interstate plan that they will workshop with the community for the next 18 months.

    Florida Department of Transportation consultant Brad Flom explains potential alternatives to adding toll lanes to Interstate 275 during a meeting Wednesday at DOT's Tampa office. Flom presented seven diagrams, all of which swapped toll lanes for transit, such as light rail or express bus, in the I-275 corridor from downtown Tampa to Bearss Ave. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON | Times]
  2. Claim: State pressured CFO, used secret recordings to shut down Universal Health Care

    Banking

    ST. PETERSBURG — The founder of St. Petersburg's Universal Health Care alleges that Florida regulators conspired with the company's chief financial officer to drive the once high-flying Medicare insurer out of business.

    Federal agents raided the headquarters of Universal Health Care in 2013, ordering employees to leave the building. The insolvent St. Petersburg Medicare insurer was then in the process of being liquidated by state regulators.
[DIRK SHADD   |   Times file photo]

  3. Aramis Ayala defends stance against death penalty: 'I did what I believe was proper'

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala on Wednesday defended her "absolute discretion" to never seek the death penalty in murder cases, as skeptical justices of the Florida Supreme Court bombarded her lawyer with sharp questions.

    Orlando prosecutor Aramis Ayala, far right, said she was "very well pleased" with her lawyer's case. "I violated no laws." [STEVE BOUSQUET | Times]
  4. Tampa Chamber of Commerce offers boost to black and Hispanic-owned businesses

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — There's a disconnect in Hillsborough County's minority business community.

    Gaston Meredith of Gaston's Culinary Services listens to LaKendria Robinson, Director of Minority Business Accelerator & Economic Inclusion during an information session at the Robert W. Saunders Library in Tampa on Tuesday.
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  5. Wesley Chapel, Greater Pasco chambers of commerce merge

    Business

    LAND O'LAKES — Two chambers of commerce representing more than 850 business members from west Pasco to Wesley Chapel and New Tampa are merging into a single organization.

    Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Hope Allen will lead the combined chambers of commerce announced Wednesday. The yet-to-be-named chamber will represent more than 850 businesses that currenlty are members of the Greater Pasco and Greater Wesley Chapel chambers.
[JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]