The third annual “Freedom in the 50 States Report” ranks Florida 23rd overall based on various fiscal, regulatory, and personal freedoms, in which the state fares better than it did in 2009 but still significantly lags neighbor state Georgia in terms of personal freedoms, and has dropped in its freedom index dramatically since 2001.
The Mercatus Center, a conservative/libertarian think tank, found New York residents to have the least freedom and North Dakota’s residents the most in its 2013 report, just released here.
Among the reasons cited for Florida’s five point improvement in freedom since 2009 are declines in health insurance mandate costs and deregulation of cable and telecom markets. Florida ranks relatively well in terms of fiscal freedoms, standing at 11th in the nation, but lands at 32nd in the nation on regulatory factors.
On this front, the report cites the creation of Citizens Property Insurance as a strong negative, citing that the program “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.” To remedy this, Mercatus recommends abolishing Citizens and instead removing price controls on private property insurance.
Florida’s ranking on personal freedoms is the lowest of its grades, sitting at 36th among the states. Mercatus cites that Florida’s gun control laws are about average nationally but below average for the South, that marijuana laws are quite restrictive as are tobacco freedoms, and that incarceration rates are high.
To improve Florida’s personal freedoms score, Mercatus recommends ending all mandatory minimum sentences for victimless crimes and reform sentencing laws to reduce incarceration rates to national norms. This reform would have raised Florida’s current freedom ranking from 36th to 26th in personal freedom, but still far shy of Georgia’s ranking as 12th in personal freedoms and 9th overall.
Florida’s only major asset in the personal freedoms index, according to Mercatus, are educational freedoms, in part because of tax-credit scholarships.
Florida’s overall freedom rankings are on the rise, nearing where the state stood entering 2007, a trend which may or may not continue based on the outcome of various measures this Session.