Louisiana’s Licensing Labyrinth

BRAC recently released a public policy commentary on Louisiana’s occupational licensure requirements. Follow along to read a summarized version of the commentary or read the complete piece on BRAC’s Public Policy Commentary page. 

Occupational Licensing in Louisiana, Broadly 

The state of Louisiana requires state licensure – a formal permit to hold a job – for nearly 80 occupations. While strict training and testing make sense for high-skill occupations where health, public safety, and specialized duty of care are a factor, such as medical doctor, registered nurse, and attorney, there are no such justification for the dozens of low-skill, low-risk occupations. For instance, barbers and cosmetologists are required to complete 1,500 hours of training before being licensed – that’s more than is required of Emergency Medical Technicians. Interior designers are required to go through six years of school and training, and then pay hundreds of dollars in state exam and license fees. In addition, every occupational license regulation either states that felons may be banned, or that applicants must have “good moral character” – a subjective standard that allows a board of competitors to determine who may or may not enter their profession. Most absurd is the state’s requirements for florists, who spend hundreds of dollars on exams and fees in order to be licensed. Louisiana is the only state that requires a license for florists – if you sell a bouquet you picked for money and aren’t licensed, you’re violating state laws. These barriers to entry hurt the poor and formerly incarcerated in particular – groups that arguably need employment more than any others. 

Once You’re In, You May Still Be Out 

But even when one receives a license and begins one’s career, the state has further barriers that can halt that career in its tracks. Louisiana is one of 15 states that still has a law on the books that allows licensing boards to suspend individual licenses if the holders are behind or default on their student loan debt. This means that employed individuals may lose their livelihood over the debt they took on specifically for career training, removing the only means they have for getting out of that debt.  

A Potential Fix on the Horizon 

Thankfully, Rep. Julie Emerson has brought legislation in 2019  – HB 423 – that would ban state boards from taking this action. If the legislature approves this bill and the governor signs it, the large number of licensed employees with student loan debt will not be at risk of losing their careers. This bill is a small but important step in changing occupational licensing overall; but even if this bill succeeds, there’s much work to be done in Louisiana to clean up the state’s archaic and needless licensing regulations – for more information on additional related policy concerns, you can read BRAC’s public policy commentary on the topic of occupational licenses at BRAC’s Public Policy Commentary page. 

Andrew Fitzgerald

As Senior Vice President of Business Intelligence, Andrew focuses on research and analysis for BRAC’s business development and economic competitiveness teams, providing economic, demographic, and fiscal research to support business expansion and relocation efforts in the Baton Rouge Area and analysis of education, workforce, tax, and other economic and public policy issues.

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