Criminal Justice

Louisiana Takes Positive Step to Remove Occupational Licensing Barriers

The Pelican State is the last remaining state in the country that makes it illegal to be a florist without having a license. The fact that an individual could be prevented from merely trying to make a living as a florist to support themselves simply does not serve taxpayers well. “Arranging flowers shouldn’t be a crime,” tweeted Americans for Prosperity’s Louisiana chapter director John Kay.

For example, Sandy Meadows was passionate about her work as a florist. After her husband passed away, she supported herself by making floral arrangements. Upon discovering that Meadows was not a licensed florist, the Louisiana Horticulture Commission threatened to shut down the floral department of the store where she worked. Meadows had attempted several times to pass the licensing exam, which consisted of making floral arrangements and taking a written test, but was denied each time. The judges of these floral arrangements were licensed florists themselves, who viewed Meadows as a potential competitor. The store had no choice but to terminate her employment. She died in poverty in 2004 because the state had prevented her from working to support herself.

Fortunately, Louisiana has undertaken addressing this barrier to employment opportunities. Representative Julie Emerson introduced House Bill 561, which would roll back the state’s burdensome occupational licensing requirements. This bill passed out of the House Agriculture Committee via an 8-6 vote on March 29. Emerson strongly believes in competition and the ability for people to seek employment opportunities without having to be concerned with economic protectionism. “That’s how…the free market works,” she said. Importantly, the bill would still require florists to get permits and allow them to be inspected by the agriculture commissioner.

Occupational licensing reform is one of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’ priorities for this year’s legislative session and this focus has aligned him with several conservative interest groups and legislators. Many occupational licensing reform efforts in the states have been bipartisan, and Louisiana serves as yet another example of both sides reaching across the aisle to pass sound policy solutions.

In particular, occupational licensing restrictions serve as formidable barriers to entry for ex-offenders. Many of these individuals who have paid their debt to society are subsequently unable to find work due to occupational licensing restrictions. In fact, a report by the Institute for Justice has found that states with high occupational licensing requirements generally have higher rates of recidivism. Remarkably, 5% of the workforce needed an occupational license 1950s, compared with 30% of the workforce in 2015.

The ALEC models Collateral Consequences Reduction Act and Occupational License Defense Act seek to reduce the restrictions on individuals from being able to work. Many of these restrictions provide needless burdens to economic opportunity and development. In essence, allowing an individual to pursue a lawful profession free from unnecessary occupational licensing regulations is crucial to the principles of limited government and free markets.

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