Occupational Licensing

Louisiana Is the Only State to License Florists. Gov. Edwards Says It Should Stop.

Justice for Sandy Meadows.

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Sandy Meadows died in 2004, alone and in poverty, because she could not get a license to work as a florist in Louisiana, the only state in the country to have such a nonsensical requirement.

Meadows had been working in a small grocery store, using her self-taught skill at arranging flowers to support herself after her husband passed away. There were no complaints about her performance—no tragic accidents involving rose thorns or excessive pollen—but when agents from the Louisiana Horticultural Commission discovered that she lacked a license, they threatened to shut down the grocery's florist business. With little other choice, Meadows' manager fired her and hired someone who had the proper paperwork.

Meadows was a plaintiff in one of the Institute for Justice's challenges to restrictive occupational licensing laws. Before the case was resolved, though, Meadows' health took a turn for the worse. Unable to earn money to pay her bills or afford rent, she lived out her final days in a sweltering hotel room with no car, no phone, and no electricity. Clark Neily, then an attorney with the institute, says he will never forget the last time he saw Meadows alive. (The lawsuit ended up being mooted after Meadows died and Hurricane Katrina drove the other plaintiffs out of the state.)

Now, 14 years after Meadows died, Louisiana lawmakers might finally eliminate their floral licensing scheme as part of a full-scale overhaul of the state's occupational licensing laws.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, earlier this week called for the passage of a series of bills to lift regulatory burdens on Louisiana workers and businesses. Included in his official legislative agenda for 2018 is HB 561, sponsored by state Rep. Julie Emerson (R-Carencro). It would repeal the licensing requirements for wholesale and retail florists.

"My legislative agenda will help us cut through unnecessary red tape to provide regulatory relief from the overly burdensome system that costs small businesses, military families and professionals valuable time and money," Gov. Edwards said in a statement. "It is time to take a look at the old way we've been doing things and make common sense changes to bring our regulatory laws into the 21st century."

Neily, who is now vice president for criminal justice at the libertarian Cato Institute, applauds Edwards for highlighting the "nakedly anticompetitive" florist license.

Louisiana's licensing requirements are the 6th worst in the nation, according to the Institute for Justice's 2017 report on licensing laws. In addition to being the only state that licenses florists, Louisiana is one of just four states to require interior designers to be licensed and is one of only six states to license tree-trimmers.

Mike Strain, commissioner of the Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commission, which oversees the licensing boards for florists, tree-trimmers, and other similar fields, tells the Baton Rouge Advocate that these rules are necessary to protect consumers. Without licensing, he claims, "you're going to set up a situation where anybody can open a floral shop and there's no method to regulate the industry and protect the public.

Protect the public from what? This is the laziest argument possible for denying people the right to pursue the careers of their choosing. If the Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commission is America's only line of defense against the chaos and darkness of unlicensed flower-arranging, then why are 49 other states getting along just fine without people like Strain and the bureaucrats he oversees?

Edwards is aiming to trim more than just the florist license. He has also endorsed a bill sponsored by Emerson and state Sen. Francis Thompson (R-Delhi) that would require a periodic review of the state's licensing laws with the goal of reducing overall licensing burdens and shifting toward less restrictive forms of regulation. The bill would also enshrine "the right of an individual to pursue a lawful occupation" as a fundamental right in the state of Louisiana.

Other bills that earned a place on Edwards' agenda for the year would ease licensing requirements for military families by establishing interstate compacts for licensed nurses, physical therapists, and emergency medical personnel. As Reason has reported, military families face unique difficulties in dealing with state-level licensing requirements, as most states do not honor licenses from elsewhere.

"Relocating somewhere entirely unfamiliar often means finding new jobs, new schools, and months of adjustment to life in a new place," says Edwards. "We see it as our duty to make that transition easier through regulatory relief for those families whose service brings them to Louisiana."

Anyone who moves across state lines can face the same sort of difficulty—indeed, research shows that licensing locks workers in place and prevents them from moving to pursue better opportunites. So interstate compacts should be available to anyone, regardless of whether they are related to someone in the military. Still, it's a good start.

And when it comes to good starts, there's no fruit hanging lower than Louisiana's florist licensing law.

NEXT: Philly Tax Spurs Black Market Soda Smuggling

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  1. no tragic accidents involving rose thorns or excessive pollen

    I almost feel like you’re not taking excessive pollen serious enough.

    1. Flower arranging licenses are vital for straight men. Why, without the guidance of a properly-educated Designer&reg some guy might send flowers to his wife because they were pretty, and if the arranger wasn’t trained in Flower Meanings, his wife might get the Wrong Message*! Do you want to be responsible for millions of divorces?
      * http://www.theflowerexpert.com/conten…..r-meanings

      [/sarc]

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  2. You want people to be dueling in the streets with averns?

  3. indeed, research shows that licensing locks workers in place and prevents them from moving to pursue better opportunites

    Feature, not bug.

  4. Let’s applaud this before it goes to shit.

  5. in a sweltering hotel room without no car

    Is this the ole lawyer double negative trick?

    1. He’s sneaking in practice for his regional dialect writing.

      1. I thought this was a Britschgi piece initially. He looks like a sort of backwoods dandy type, and I can see him with a fiction career on the side.

        1. Reading Britches fiction would certainly be an experience.

        2. RIP to our one true Fiction writer. We miss you already Krayven, Son of Man.

  6. Could the current Democratic Governor of Louisiana actually be less corrupt and useless than his namesake? He should be ashamed of himself! Whatever happened to tradition?

    1. The current Democratic Governor being named Edwards. Is what I should have made more explicit, somewhere in there. Wow, that execution was so botched even Louisiana would be appalled.

      1. They should probably consider a licensing board to prevent that in the future. Otherwise, how are HnR readers to be properly protected?

    2. The current Governor Edwards styles himself as John Bel Edwards, to make the distinction. BTW, did you know that we have a Senator John Kennedy too?


  7. …indeed, research shows that licensing locks workers in place and prevents them from moving to pursue better [sic] opportunites.

    So we’re advocating for states to lose their skilled labor because of their own misguided and idiotic policies? We must be Hitler!

    /sarc

    1. Bring your own douche bag. Clever name.

      But your point is well-taken and it’s correct. Licensing of businesses is just more rent-seeking by local governments. It’s a pathetic way to obtain revenue. And it’s corrupt as hell, too, since it only affects local businesses that already pay sales taxes, employment taxes, and any other tax dreamed up by those (government workers and professional politicians) who have never owned or operated a business in their lives.

      By what right do cities, counties, states or any other governing entity place a charge or fee on any person’s ability to earn a living? There is no right. It only demonstrates the pathetic and desperate minds of those who govern on a local level.

      This is a much larger issue than most people think. It has far-reaching consequences in the exercise of a free market because it creates a unlevel playing field and distorts natural market forces. Think about it and you will likely draw your own conclusions about the wrongness of it. I don’t know if wrongness is a word, but the meaning is clear.

      In whatever form of local government a city, county or state has, it seems there ought to be a quid pro quo. Each member of the governing body — legislature, city council or county commissioners — ought to have to be licensed and pay a fee for their esteemed positions as well.

  8. That’s such a depressing story I won’t even make any Governor Edwards jokes.

  9. Well, at least for the mobile military families thing, maybe a certain group of legislators could get off their indignation for a minute and tie all federal funding to license reciprocity.

    Maybe that silly ass federal consumer thing could pass a death bed ruling that all state licenses must be based on a stated overwhelming state safety interest.

    Maybe pigs could fly.

    Maybe Tony could cite sources and use logic.

  10. While I – a Louisianian – am sympathetic to the problem of credential rentierism, I must also say that having board that control these professions serves as a great way to ensure fair consumer treatment. When I bought my current home, I hired a home inspector – but when I moved in, I noticed that the hot & cold water for the bathtub was swapped! (Yes, I could have simply swapped the knobs, but the hot water would have been on the right, which is wrong.) I demanded that the inspector pay to rectify this situation (the cost for a handyman to fix it was less than the cost of the inspection), but of course he dragged his feet. But once I filed a complaint with board that held his license, you can bet your sweet bippy that he paid me!

  11. A licence to sell and arrange flowers is fuc#ing stupid, clearly, some numbnut has a monetary reason for that law maybe a relative of Santorum.

    1. You can say fucking stupid on Reason. No censure here.

    2. No relative, but looking at pictures… the current governor is just slightly cross eyed. But stupidity [of long term thinking] is a long term tradtion there, largely birthed by Huey Long who was unsatisfied by the record breaking spending habits of FDR, demanding more while never wondering about where the money would come from. Was Long a partial template for a character marginally attached to reality (in a friendly sort of way) we know as Mojo Nixon? I don’t know, but the magical thinking is there: the state went from the budget being under control in 2016 to instantly being $1B “in the hole” on account of one election, and overnight at that. The florist story sounds like a plea for common sense, but considering the source, a little suspicion is in order. I hope JB Edwards shows a return to common sense for the democrat party, but… if that is the case, he is seriously outnumbered, and won’t make it past the logic blockade of California should he have national aspirations. Obama went to personally visit him after his win, which makes the odds of common sense diminish. Something else is at play here: if he’s giving one with one hand, we might do well to see what the other hand is about to take.

  12. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again
    Clarke Neely is a God damned American Hero

  13. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again
    Clarke Neely is a God damned American Hero

  14. At issue here is how roughshod grocery stores can be in Louisiana on balance. In this instance, you would think the store would pay for the womans license rather than go throught the cost and risk of a new hire, but no. So, what guides them? Why, it’s liquor licensing practices, and the odd punitive method that has developed to crank out revenue to the state. Anyone scanning liquor for purchase has to have a license, which is anchored in schizophrenic fashion: it is only good at the address applied for, but belongs to the employee who paid for it, and is good only at that location. That means that if somebody is asked to work at store B instead of store A, the employee has to go get a second license for the new address. So store managers/owners have developed an attitude that licenses are the employees problem, despite sales taking place under their roof on their property. Combine that with state avarice in taxing inventories before charging property taxes, and then leveraging those two costs inside a sales tax… no wonder businsesses like leaving the state. What will they do next, tax beekeepers? Oh, they do that already. The governor, after being in office a year, shows no promise of doing much better it seems.

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