Maybe it is a legacy of the big-government days of Huey P. Long, but Louisiana is a state that is certainly avid for regulation of small business.

All too often, regulations – for everything from florists to interior designers, and other services – are less about protecting the public than about generating fees for government at the state or local level, or keeping competition out of a specific line of business.

Sometimes regulation is necessary to protect the public, as in licensing of doctors or other medical professionals. One would not want a shoe salesman at the operating table.

Licensing, though, ought to face a stiff level of scrutiny. Is licensure required to protect the public? Does the profession to be licensed really require a certificate or specific levels of training? Are fees for licenses reasonable?

Among other distinctions, Louisiana is one of a dozen states that requires licensing of hair braiders, of all things.

State Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, has a bill to change that. It passed the House and now faces Senate action.

We think the Senate should pass the Emerson bill.

Does hair-braiding require 500 hours of instruction? That is what is in current law, and as a result Louisiana has only 32 licensed braiders — while Mississippi, requiring no specialized training, has more than 1,200.

“For hair braiding, as for many other occupations, licensing appears to do little more than prevent some people from earning an honest living in the occupation of their choice,” argues the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has challenged licensing of casket makers and florists in Louisiana. “To expand opportunity and choice, policymakers should free braiders and other American workers and entrepreneurs from this tangle of needless red tape.”

These are the kinds of jobs that can be the basis of entrepreneurship, with someone who has some skill in braiding hair can open a shop and get ahead in life. If they do a good job, the business will succeed and if not it will fail, with the customers making that call -- not the state. The Emerson bill is a free-enterprise initiative and it passed the House 89-12. The surprise is that a dozen members would find this bill anything less than a matter of common sense.

The Emerson bill does not remove requirements for more complex services, such using hair dyes or other chemicals, still to be regulated by the state Board of Cosmetology. But natural hair braiding does not seem the kind of threat to health and safety that should require a license from government.