Capitol Views: Occupational licensing overhaul still afloat

    What started out as a legislative vehicle for fans of free enterprise and statewide business boosters was transformed today into a slower-paced attempt to reform and streamline Louisiana’s occupational licenses.

    The bill’s author, Rep. Julie Emerson, said a few hundred emails from proponents and opponents have flooded her inbox since she took up the charge—and there were so many people in attendance at a Wednesday morning committee hearing in Baton Rouge that an overflow room had to be designated.

    HB 748 by Emerson, R-Carencro, originally sought to create a sunset review process for each occupational license in the state, as led by the governor’s office. Citing studies that classify such licensing requirements as barriers to employment, while questioning the need to license such activities as hair-braiding and floral arranging, Emerson has carried her message through the House this session with success.

    The upper chamber, however, presented a true challenge for supporters, which became evident early in the hearing for HB 748 that was held by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection and International Affairs. It was and still is, Emerson’s last surviving bill to address occupational licenses, and senators were eager to thin its language and attach amendments.

    “I feel like it’s really simple and minimally evasive,” Emerson told the committee as its members endeavored to find a compromise.

    As it stands now, HB 748 would only trigger an annual review of 20% of Louisiana’s licensing authorities, over the next five years, to produce a report that could lead to future legislative action. The bill now moves to the Senate floor for further consideration. If approved, Emerson’s bill would get kicked back to the House, where representatives will either agree with the Senate’s changes or reject them, sending the legislation to a special compromise committee.

    John Kay, director of the Louisiana chapter of the conservative Americans For Prosperity, said this afternoon that he was still reading through the changes made by the committee. Prior to the meeting, AFP promoted the Emerson bill as an ”opportunity to bridge the gap to more job opportunities in Louisiana” and a “thoughtful review of outdated occupational licensing laws.”

    Jeremy Alford will publish a daily update throughout the legislative session on Daily Report PM. Alford reports on Louisiana politics at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.

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