FILE - Hair stylist shampooing, salon, occupational licensing

Louisiana is the land of great food, good music, ample natural resources, and resilient communities that come together in times of both challenge and celebration. Unfortunately, Louisiana is also a land of extreme government licensure regulations that limit work and entrepreneurship.

This problem dates back many decades, but the worst growth in licensure has occurred in the last 30 years. Louisiana has added more new licenses in that time than any other state. The result: more than 22% of jobs require a license in Louisiana. And some of them are truly ridiculous, like our unique requirement that florists be licensed. Seriously. You need a license in Louisiana to trim flowers and put them on wedding tables. These licensure boards act like cartels, controlling supply and crushing competition.

The problem extends to all sorts of anti-opportunity policies. Take the story of Daltonio Elaire. Daltonio’s dream was to run a mobile barber shop, traveling across Lafayette to conveniently cut the hair of his patrons. He served people who are often disabled, elderly, or can’t easily travel to a brick-and-mortar establishment. Daltonio invested his hard-earned money in this dream only to be shut down after a former employer complained to the board. Do you think this was about a risk to the public? Or that his business was dangerous? No. His old boss didn’t want competition. It’s that simple.

Similarly, the late Sandy Meadows found herself crushed by absurd florist licensure requirements. When her husband passed away, she relocated to Baton Rouge from Monroe. At her local Walmart in Monroe, she worked all over the store, but her favorite job was in the floral department. In Baton Rouge, her skills were sought by a local Albertsons, but she was later forced by the state to stop arranging flowers altogether because even with nine years of experience, she couldn’t pass the state’s subjective floral exam. Louisiana is the only state in the country that requires florists to obtain a license.

It’s even worse for justice-involved individuals. Louisiana laws allow boards to deny licenses on the grounds of things like “moral turpitude” and giving licensure boards broad authority to deny the formerly imprisoned the opportunity to positively contribute to society and reject criminal behavior. Even when the crime they committed has nothing to do with the license they’re pursuing.

It’s easy to brush off concerns about laws and regulations like licensure as a minor inconvenience. However, new research from The Pelican Institute and the Archbridge Institute has identified a direct correlation between licensure and economic mobility. Logically, the ability to earn a living and command your own destiny enhances human flourishing and reduces poverty.

Conservatives have long worked on less tangible issues, while missing a focus on the most significant reason capitalism and freedom are important: opportunity. Reining in Louisiana’s anti-competitive and regressive occupational licensure laws isn’t about pushing an ideological goal, it’s about helping real people build better lives and communities.

Raheem Williams is the director of the Kane Center for Opportunity Policy at the Pelican Institute.