Careful! She’s Got a Flower!

     NEW ORLEANS (CN) – Louisiana is the only state in the nation that requires florists to be licensed, but it prohibits professional flower arrangers from getting a license, four frustrated flower arrangers say. The law serves no valid interest, but simply “exclude(s) people who want to arrange and sell flowers from earning an honest living as a retail florist,” the flower lovers say in their constitutional complaint.

     In the federal complaint, lead plaintiff Monique Chauvin says the defendant Commissioners of the Louisiana Horticulture Commission keep her and other flower arrangers from earning a living.
     “Louisiana’s florist licensing laws exclude people who want to arrange and sell flowers from earning an honest living as a retail florist,” the florists say. But “neither the Louisiana Horticulture Commission nor the State of Louisiana have any evidence that unlicensed persons who arrange and sell flowers present any threat to public health and safety.”
     The four florists, all from New Orleans, say the licensing laws “merely serve to prohibit individuals from exercising their constitutionally protected right to work in the occupation of their choice free from unreasonable government interference.”
     Chauvin says she and her co-plaintiffs all failed the state floral licensure test. She says that even though she owns a flower shop and has been in the floral business for a decade she can’t run her business unless she hires a licensed florist.
     She does have a state-licensed employee, but the person is sick and may quit working. If that happens, Chauvin says, her only options will be to retake the licensing test she failed in 2000, hire another state-licensed florist, or close up shop. Chauvin says that “having a state-licensed florist on staff does not change or improve the quality of floral arrangements,” no matter what the law says.
     Louisiana allows a floral business with at least one licensed florist on staff to hire as many unlicensed florists as it wants. There is no requirement that that the licensed florist watch the unlicensed workers arrange bouquets, or even be on premises while floral arrangements are prepared and sold.
     The florists say that arranging and selling flowers offers a productive, rewarding livelihood because of its relatively low start-up costs and the opportunity for people to distinguish themselves through hard work and creativity.
     To get a florist’s license, applicants must pass a written exam and a 4-hour practical exam in which they design four floral arrangements. The fee to take the exam is $150. The practical portion of the exam is judged by licensed florists. The passing grade on both portions of the exam is 70 percent.
     The florists say that every year people who have arranged and sold flowers for years, sometimes in other states, fail the licensing exam.
     The plaintiffs seek relief for violations of due process and the 14th Amendment. They say the licensing law violates the Louisiana Constitution, and want it enjoined.
     They are represented by Dane Ciolino of New Orleans.

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