Occupational Licensing

Louisiana Finally Fixes America's Dumbest Licensing Requirement

Louisiana lawmakers approved a bill to end the testing requirement for florists. Going forward, only a fee will be required.


America's most insane occupational licensing law is about to get a whole lot better.

Louisiana is the only state in the country that requires florists to be licensed by the government. A bill that is now on the way to Gov. Jeff Landry's desk sadly won't change that fact, but it will eliminate the mandatory test that prospective florists in Louisiana must pass before being allowed to earn a living by placing different types of flowers together in an arrangement. Going forward, obtaining a florist license will require only the payment of a fee to the state.

The bill cleared its final legislative hurdle with a unanimous vote in the state House on Wednesday. Landry, a Republican who has supported other licensing reforms, is expected to sign it.

Requiring any sort of government permission slip before someone can work as a florist is obviously ridiculous, and Louisiana's florist-testing regime was a uniquely perverse and protectionist scheme. This week's passage of state Rep. Mike Bayham's (R–Chalmette) reform bill is the culmination of a two-decade battle to eliminate it.

That effort began in the early 2000s, when the Institute for Justice filed a lawsuit challenging the florist licensing law. One of the plaintiffs in that case, a woman named Sandy Meadows, had been fired from her job at a Baton Rogue grocery store when state inspectors discovered she had been arranging flowers without the proper license. She tragically died, unemployed and in poverty, before the case could be heard.

Several subsequent lawsuits and legislative efforts have failed to kill the florist licensing law, although Louisiana lawmakers did adopt changes in 2012 that put an end to the practical portion of the licensing exam. Yes, before that, would-be florists were not only quizzed on their knowledge of the profession but also on their subjective skills at arranging flowers. The judges for the exam, naturally, were already-licensed florists.

Even after the exam was pared back to being only a written test, the requirements were still quite onerous, Sarah Harbison, general counsel for the Pelican Institute, a free market think tank that supported the reform bill, told Reason this week. The test would be offered only a few times a year, and would-be licensees had to travel to Baton Rouge to take it in person.

The arguments for maintaining the florist license strain credibility. During a Louisiana Senate hearing on the reform bill earlier this month, Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain fretted about the risk of "pest and disease problems" if the licensing requirement was removed. Louisiana does not require a license to sell cut flowers—which would presumably carry the same, truly terrifying risks—but does require a license if you want to arrange different types of flowers into a bouquet. And if Louisiana is protecting the public from the danger of unlicensed floristry, why isn't there mass chaos in the 49 other states where florists can work without first passing a government-issued test?

"This will lead to greater sales of flowers. This will help people get jobs. This will expand opportunities for people to sell flowers, and this will get rid of a needless regulation," Bayham said last month when the House first approved his bill.

Good riddance to Louisiana's absurd florist licensing exams. But this week's reforms do leave one dilemma: What will be America's worst licensing law now?