Louisiana Florists Need License

March 11, 2005 - 13:43

After more than a year of lawsuits, The Associated Press (AP) stated in a recent article that “U.S. District Judge Frank Polozola ruled Wednesday that the state can keep its unique law requiring florists to pass a test and get a license to work on their own. Would-be florists had argued that the law unconstitutionally bars them from entering the occupation of their choice.” Louisiana is the only state in the country that requires anyone who wants to arrange and sell flowers to pass a two-part licensing exam.

Applicants are required to take a written exam and create four floral arrangements in four hours, according to the AP. After taking those tests, approximately half of the test takers fail the test, the article stated. Though there are floral jobs out there for unlicensed people interested in floral design, they are only allowed to work in a facility that has a licensed florist on staff.

Cut flower dealers in Louisiana are regulated by the state of Louisiana, but they are not required to pass an exam. However, they may not sell different kinds of flowers together in the same bunch, since this could be construed as flower arranging, which only licensed florists can do. Also, cut flower dealers cannot sell flowers within three hundred feet of a retail florist establishment. People who sell floral designs from dried or artificial plants are not required to have a license or take an exam.

According to details from the lawsuit, score sheets for the licensing exam show the test is graded in a haphazard, seemingly arbitrary fashion. For instance, one florist who passed the exam on her fifth attempt had varying scores. Five different judges graded the practical exam. On her wedding design, one judge gave a perfect 10, another gave her a five, and the three remaining gave her a zero. On deciding whether she used the correct size of wire on the greenery, three judges gave her a perfect five while the other two gave her a zero.
On December 18, 2003, three Louisiana women filed a federal lawsuit with the Louisiana Horticulture Commission against the 65-year-old florist licensing law for anti-competitive, unconstitutional infringement on their right to earn a living.

Sandy Meadows, Shamille Peters and Barbara Peacock, the three plaintiffs in the case, had all been working with flowers for several years but have been unable to pass the exam, limiting them in their careers. They have been represented by the Washington, D.C.-based Institute for Justice, who originally asked a federal judge to declare the licensing requirement a violation of rights guaranteed by the 14th Amendment of due process, equal protection and "privileges of immunities," which include the right to earn a living.

Currently, the women involved in the original lawsuit are in the process of asking the Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn the ruling.

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