CLEAR News - Summer 2004

Florist 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 several years.

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 Resources
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