What do florists, interior designers and eyebrow threaders have in common? They all need a government license to work in Louisiana.
When it comes to putting up barriers to work in low-to-moderate-income occupations, Louisiana is one of the worst offenders in the country, according to a new study. Published by the Institute for Justice, a public interest law firm that litigates licensing cases nationwide, the report analyzed the licensing requirements for 102 different lower-income occupations in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Louisiana licenses 77 of those occupations, tying with Washington state for the most occupations licensed. Many of those licenses can be a significant burden: In Louisiana, the average license to work forces workers to complete 202 days of education and experience, pass two exams and pay $360 in fees, before they can legally do their jobs. Overall, Louisiana ranks as the sixth most broadly and onerously licensed state — hardly a ranking that welcomes entrepreneurs.
Louisiana earns further distinction by licensing several occupations that are rarely licensed in other states. These include tree trimmers (licensed by only six other states), non-instructional teacher assistants (licensed by just four other states) and interior designers (licensed by only two other states and the District of Columbia). In fact, Louisiana is the only state in the nation that actually requires a license for florists. Presumably these occupations are safely practiced everywhere else in the country without a license, making Louisiana’s requirements utterly irrational.
The state’s licensing boards are so out of control that Louisiana bureaucrats have cracked down on eyebrow threading. Threading eyebrows is a safe, ancient grooming technique that uses only cotton thread to lift unwanted hair from the follicle. But Louisiana requires threaders to obtain a traditional esthetician’s license that involves no training in threading. The state forces threaders to waste hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars learning cosmetology techniques they do not use. To vindicate their rights, the Threading Studio and Spa in Metairie and two eyebrow threaders have joined with the Institute for Justice and filed a lawsuit against the state Board of Cosmetology. Like many working-class Louisianans, IJ’s threading clients have been kept out of an occupation they are able to practice safely, one that should not require them to jump through the government’s pointless hoops.
Meanwhile, Mississippi took another step in the right direction and recently passed a landmark licensing board review. The legislation creates a commission to ensure that the state avoids irrational board rules and policies and instead uses “the least restrictive regulation necessary to protect consumers.” Mississippi’s law shows that states can make an effort to tear down barriers to work.
Far too many Louisianans have to get a government permission slip before they can work. Let workers earn a living instead of earning a license.
attorney, Institute for Justice