Louisiana is the only state that requires occupational licenses for florists. It’s absurd.

“Sandy Meadows died alone and in poverty because the State of Louisiana wouldn’t allow her to work in a perfectly harmless occupation.”

So said Clark Neily, who represented Meadows in an unsuccessful attempt to overturn Louisiana’s floristry licensing law back in 2003.

In a nation rife with wacky occupational licensing laws — different states around the country license everything from fortunetellers to frog farmers — Louisiana has stood alone as the only state that mandates a license for putting together a bouquet. Now, nearly 14 years after Meadows’ death, Louisiana may finally be on the brink of overturning this absurd requirement.

After Meadows’ husband passed away in 2000, she had little money or education. But she had a talent with flowers. She found a way to support herself by managing the floral department of a local grocery store — until the Louisiana Horticulture Commission threatened to shut down the store’s floristry operations unless it hired a licensed florist. Meadows tried to obtain a state floristry license five separate times, but she was unable to pass the complicated, subjective practical exam that was part of the licensing requirement.

The exam required applicants to arrange four bouquets in four hours. The results were judged by a panel of licensed Louisiana florists, who all-but-certainly viewed the applicants as competitors that were best kept out of the floristry trade. The passage rates for the exam were below 50 percent; even longtime florists often failed it. One licensed florist in the state described the test as nothing more than a “hazing process.” Ultimately, because she could not pass the exam, the grocery store had to let Meadows go.

Louisiana eventually scrapped the practical portion of the exam — while keeping in place a written test — but the state has remained frustratingly unable to fully repeal the law that many consider the poster child for occupational licensing run amok. Earlier this year, however, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards advocated reforming the state’s onerous occupational licensing regime. He even referenced the floristry license specifically, noting that Louisiana was the only state in the country to have such a law before adding, “I’m not sure why we do that.”

Right on cue, Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, introduced a bill in the Louisiana Legislature that repeals the licensing mandate for florists and removes the requirement that the Horticulture Commission be partially stocked with incumbent florists. Gov. Edwards expressed support for the legislation in his recently-unveiled legislative agenda, which gives the bill strong bipartisan roots.

Read more of this USA TODAY op-ed by Shoshana Weissmann and C. Jarrett Dieterle by clicking here.

Photo: Sean Gardner for USA TODAY