- Associated Press - Thursday, May 24, 2018

Recent editorials from Louisiana newspapers:

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May 20

The Advocate says Louisiana’s licensing requirements for retail florists will be around as long as money is involved:

Through the wisdom of the Louisiana Legislature, Louisiana will remain the only state in the nation that requires retail florists to pass a licensing exam.

The Senate agriculture committee voted 6-1 May 15 against a House-passed bill that would have ended the licensing requirement, stalling the measure.

Come on.

Louisiana is far from alone in the nation in having established over the years a web of occupational licenses and requirements for what can and should be free enterprises.

Quite often, government craves the fees from the licenses at least as much, if not more, than any protection of customers that ensues. In the case of retail florists, the rule includes a fee that funds a job overseeing the tests and qualification - qualifications? - for flower-arranging.

“Aren’t there other occupations where we should allow people to go out and compete?” Gov. John Bel Edwards told the Rotary Club of Baton Rouge recently. “The market will sort out who knows how to raise flowers, and who doesn’t.”

Amen to that.

A drive to free up small-business markets to competition is a national cause for libertarian think-tanks, generally conservative, but it is a bipartisan initiative in the case of Edwards, a Democrat.

Anti-restriction bills have been advanced in the Legislature by Rep. Julie Emerson, R-Carencro, but it’s hard going for them. Aside from the florist bill, she pushed a more general measure to review market restrictions. If the vested interests defeat that, Edwards’ order that state departments review their licenses and fee structures might get at the same issues.

Licenses come at varying costs and education requirements - often they cost hundreds of dollars. Many include a written exam. Many of the licenses are handled through governor-appointed boards. Some have staff that are paid through the licensing fees that they collect.

Studies by national think-tanks have demonstrated the anti-competitive impact of licensing restrictions.

Does hair-braiding require 500 hours of instruction? That is what is in current law, and as a result Louisiana has only 32 licensed braiders - while Mississippi, requiring no specialized training, has more than 1,200.

“For hair braiding, as for many other occupations, licensing appears to do little more than prevent some people from earning an honest living in the occupation of their choice,” argues the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that has challenged licensing of casket makers and florists in Louisiana. “To expand opportunity and choice, policymakers should free braiders and other American workers and entrepreneurs from this tangle of needless red tape.”

We commend Edwards and Emerson for this effort. But so long as there’s a fee attached, it will take political muscle to remove barriers to entry from many small businesses.

Online: http://www.theadvocate.com

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May 18

NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune says abusers will finally have to give up their guns:

Four years after the Legislature made it illegal for some domestic violence offenders to possess guns, Louisiana is finally taking steps to ensure the weapons are taken away.

New Orleans Sen. J.P. Morrell’s Senate Bill 231, which sets up a mechanism for the weapons to be turned in, was sent Wednesday (May 16) to Gov. John Bel Edwards for his signature. It will take effect in October.

And, finally, victims will get the protection they were promised in 2014. Countless victims of domestic violence have been at risk since then.

Simone Veal was shot to death by her estranged husband in 2017, and an off-duty Westwego police officer was killed trying to help her. Sylvester Holt was under a protective order after being accused by another woman of rape, so he shouldn’t have had a gun when he killed Ms. Veal and Officer Michael Louviere.

Krystle Landor’s ex-boyfriend was under a protective order in November when he shot the 28-year-old mother of three to death near Lacombe.

Future victims of domestic violence should have a greater sense of security thanks to Sen. Morrell and advocates for victims.

The public policy team for the United Way of Southeast Louisiana - Charmaine Caccioppi and Kim Sport - made the gun transfers the top domestic violence prevention issue this session. They worked with Sen. Morrell in drafting the legislation and mobilized support statewide, including among sheriffs. The Louisiana Sheriff’s Association was instrumental in getting consensus on the bill. Victim advocates also credit Rep. Joe Marino, an Independent from Gretna, who handled the legislation in the House.

It was former Rep. Helena Moreno, who was sworn in this month to the New Orleans City Council, who persuaded lawmakers to prohibit abusers from possessing guns. The law forbids people convicted of domestic abuse from possessing a firearm for 10 years after they’ve finished their sentence. It also forbids people under active protective orders from possessing guns.

Ms. Moreno worked for three years to try to get legislators to set up a transfer process in law, crafting 18 different versions of the legislation. The vote didn’t happen while she was in the Legislature, but her work was instrumental in this effort.

Sen. Morrell’s legislation creates a clear process for getting guns out of the hands of abusers - including those convicted of domestic abuse battery, a second or subsequent battery of a dating partner or who have a protective order against them.

Offenders will be required to provide an affidavit with a list of their guns to the sheriff in the parish where they live or where the protective order was issued. Sheriffs can store the weapons themselves, contract with a storage facility or transfer the weapons to a third party.

The guns are forbidden to be transferred to anyone living with the offender, and SB 231 makes it a crime to return guns to someone who has been ordered not to have them. The legislation also increases penalties for people who lie in an attempt to purchase a gun.

Weapons will be returned when there is proof that a protective order has been dismissed, when the accused is acquitted or charges are dismissed.

Senate Bill 231 is not a guarantee that victims will be safe, but it should give them a better chance to escape violence.

Online: http://www.nola.com

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May 18

The Houma Courier says decorum in public office is important:

When lawmakers in Baton Rouge are debating matters of public concern, they must always remember that they are representing their constituents - officially, with their votes, and unofficially, with their behavior.

Two recent incidents have reminded the voters that they should remain vigilant and make sure that their public servants give their own offices the respect they deserve.

Recently, during a debate about a potential rules change for female prisoners, the discussion devolved into an ugly argument about sex roles and equality.

Those are serious matters that always deserve discussion, but they also deserve to be treated seriously by the people’s representatives.

The state House was discussing a proposal that would have required prisons to provide feminine hygiene products to prisoners for free. The bill was a response to allegations that some women have been forced to pay prisons for these products - reports that, if they are true, bring up the unconscionable possibility that some prisoners might not be able to afford them.

The bill also would have outlines rules for how male guards can pat down or body-search female prisoners and how they can interact with prisoners in areas where they are likely to be undressed.

Rep. Kenny Havard, R-St. Francisville, proposed an amendment that would have applied the same restrictions on female guards when they deal with male prisoners. Under the guise of a quest for equality, Havard essentially argued that the treatment of women prisoners is unimportant, said several female lawmakers.

In a separate - and much more serious - issue, state Sen. Norby Chabert, R-Houma, was involved earlier this month in a fistfight with a legislative colleague, Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette.

Both lawmakers apologized for their parts in the bar fight, which they said was an escalation of an earlier disagreement over legislation.

They both obviously know better. They apologized for the fight, promised to work together and said they are actually good friends.

That may be, but there is more at stake here than the two men themselves. Their fistfight, and the earlier incident between Havard and his female colleagues, should remind all our lawmakers that they are in Baton Rouge on the people’s business.

They aren’t there to belittle one another or to scuffle in bars. They should be treating the public’s issues - and one another, for that matter - with the urgency and respect they deserve.

Online: http://www.houmatoday.com


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