CLEAR News - Summer 2004
Licensure in Louisiana
The Louisiana Horticulture
Commission licenses the state�s florists, requiring them to pass a two-part
licensing exam consisting of a one-hour written test and a four-hour practical
test. The arrangements created for the practical test are judged by
licensed florists on criteria such as balance, scale, harmony, focal point,
accent, repetition, and unity. The
licensing law has been in place for 65 years, and Louisiana is the only state
that has such a law for florists.
Recently, three plaintiffs
represented by the Institute for Justice have filed a federal lawsuit claiming
that the law is anti-competitive and a violation of their 14th
Amendment right to earn a living. Despite
several years of experience in floral arranging, the plaintiffs have been unable
to receive a passing score on the licensing exam and thus cannot work as
�florists.� Therefore, any
store in which they work is required by law to also employ a full-time licensed
florist, which can sometimes be economically prohibitive.
The plaintiffs� case focuses
strongly on the subjectiveness of the licensure examination.
The practical part of the exam is judged by licensed florists, the very
people that the candidates will be competing against for business should they
become licensed florists. Candidates
are graded on such criteria as whether the arrangements have a proper focal
point, if the flowers are spaced effectively and in proportion to the container,
and if the flowers have been picked properly.
Based on some score sheets from a florist who recently passed the exam,
the Institute for Justice demonstrates that there was much disagreement among
the judges (scores ranging from a perfect 10 to a 0 on the same items),
indicative of the subjective nature of the scoring. The Horticulture Commission records recent pass rates at 40%
in 2000, 37% in 2001, 43% in 2002, and 46% in 2003. Even after taking floral design courses and courses geared
towards teaching what is on the exam, many candidates do not pass the exam.
Some argue that this lawsuit is
merely being brought about by three women who have not been able to pass the
exam; the current law and exam is necessary to uphold the standards of the
floral industry. Others argue that
the licensure law is unjustified because no public harm comes from the
unlicensed practice of floristry. The
consumer, not the government, is a sufficient judge of the quality of a
florist�s work; market conditions will weed out unqualified florists.
And the work of the three plaintiffs has met with consumer approval for
A bill was filed in 2003 to
revise the law, eliminating the practical exam and replacing it with required
training through an accredited post-secondary school.
That bill died in committee, but its supporter has refiled the bill and
it is expected to pass.
Related Websites and
Louisiana Horticulture Commission
Institute for Justice: Litigation Backgrounder
HB 1409, repealing practical exam
Louisiana State Florists Association, 224 Hodges Rd., Ruston, LA 71270, 318-255-2671
American Institute of Floral Designers