#23 Florida

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The overall freedom ranking is a combination of personal and economic freedoms.

From 2009

Florida State Overview

State Facts

Net Migration Rate (?) 7.4 % 
Personal Income Growth (?) 3.02 %
How does the freedom ranking relate to these?


Florida is a moderately fiscally conservative state that has gone a long way to attract business, but has not done nearly as much as its neighbor Georgia. In addition, it lacks respect for many civil liberties.

Florida ranks well above average on most fiscal policies; however, while the index shows its tax burden declining slightly between FY 2008 and FY 2010, it also shows its debt burden rising to 21.3 percent of personal income. Property and general sales taxes are higher than average, although there is no individual income tax.

Due to a history of in-migration, real property rights and land-use regulation have been hot-button issues. On the one hand, local zoning laws are fairly restrictive, but on the other, compensation is required for certain regulatory takings, and the state has adopted the nation’s furthest-reaching reform of eminent domain. Labor law is generally pro-market, apart from a minimum wage, but independent occupations face a thicket of licensure requirements. Non-physician medical professions are treated more harshly here than almost anywhere else: nurse practitioners are not allowed to practice independently, the state is not a member of the Nurse Licensure Compact, and physician assistants are not allowed to prescribe medication. In 2011, after the closing date for this edition of the freedom index, Florida did liberalize restrictions on dental hygienists. Data from the Council on Affordable Health Insurance show a big decline in health insurance mandate cost between 2009 and 2011. The state has deregulated cable and telecom markets. Florida created a state-run homeowners’ insurance corporation in 2002 (rather than deregulating premiums), which subsidizes costly coastal homes at the expense of inland taxpayers and has destroyed the private property insurance market in several areas. Governor Charlie Crist vetoed a reform bill in 2010.1

In general, Florida does not score very well on civil liberties. Florida’s gun control laws are about average nationally but below average for the South. Marijuana laws are generally quite restrictive, and there is a Salvia ban. Police may take DNA from anyone arrested for a felony. Incarceration and drug arrest rates are high. As in many other states with the ballot initiative, tobacco freedoms have been sharply curbed. Florida generally does well on educational freedom, in part because of its tax-credit scholarships.

Policy Recommendations

  • Clamp down on state and local debt and property taxes by reducing spending in the following areas, which are above the national average: police and fire protection, airports, public parks, and sanitation and sewerage.
  • Abolish the Citizens Property Insurance Corporation and remove all price controls on private property insurance.
  • End all mandatory minimum sentences for victimless crimes and reform sentencing with an eye to reducing incarceration rates to national norms. This reform would have raised Florida from 34th to 26th on personal freedom.
1. Eli Lehrer, “2011 Property and Casualty Insurance Report Card: A State-by-State Analysis of Regulatory Burden” (Heartland Institute, 2011), http://heartland.org/sites/all/modules/custom/heartland_migration/files/pdfs/30283.pdf
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