A Senate panel has rejected an attempt to do away with retail florist licensing in Louisiana – the only state that requires such occupational certification to arrange flowers.

The Senate Agriculture Committee shot down House Bill 561 in a 6-1 vote on Tuesday after hearing objections from florists who said they agree with tighter regulations on their industry.

"Having a license is not a barrier," said Annie Taylor, a licensed florist in Scott. "To say you are a licensed florist sets you apart in the industry."

She warned committee member that if the measure passed then it would denigrate the profession.

"You have let us down and you have demoted us," she said. "We are artists. It's not an occupation."

The effort to repeal the florist licensing requirement in Louisiana was part of a broader push to review occupational licenses in the state, after a report last fall from the Institute for Justice released found Louisiana and Washington license more lower-income occupations it analyzed than any other state — 77 of 102 jobs.

The effort was supported by a broad group that aligned Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards with more conservative interest groups with which he's often at odds, including the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and Americans for Prosperity.

Rep. Julie Emerson, a Carencro Republican who sponsored the bill said her intent was to review the state's onerous licensing requirements that can be barriers to work, and was not intended as a slight to professional florists.

"We're looking at occupational licensing and we bring up things like this to have these discussions," she said.

Representatives from the Louisiana Department of Agriculture, which currently administers the licensing, made a case for why it is needed.

"You want to have the means to make sure that people are qualified to do the work they do," said Ansel Rankins, the department's horticulture director.

If it had passed, florists would still have had to obtain a "floral dealer" permits, but they would no longer have had to pass a 40-question test.

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said the pass rate is about 75 percent for first-time floral license test takers.

"I think the fundamental issue that we are here today, is do we maintain this as a level of profession or is it an occupation," Strain said.

Senators who opposed the bill questioned whether it would benefit "big box" retailers over small florist businesses.

Edwards in several public speeches, including his 2018 State of the State, noted that he didn't understand why Louisiana remained the only state to require retail florist licenses and he hoped the Legislature would agree to repeal as part of fostering a business-friendly climate.

Americans for Prosperity had, in particular, embraced the effort and held special events for unlicensed people to make floral arrangements. AFP said it would include votes on HB561 on its annual legislators' scorecard.

"All it would have taken was a very simple vote to move our state towards a free market for florists instead of forcing them to obtain a government permission slip to work," said AFP Louisiana state director John Kay. "Looks like the government will continue to be a thorn in the side of florists."

Voting in favor of eliminating florist licenses (1): Sen. Barrow Peacock, R-Shreveport.

Voting Against HB561 (6): Sens. Bret Allain, R-Franklin; Gerald Long, R-Winnfield; Neil Riser, R-Columbia; John Smith, R-Leesvile; Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro; and Francis Thompson, R-Delhi.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.