Turk File

Turk File July/August 2010

by Leslie Turk

Wednesday, July 28, 2010**
Compiled and edited by Leslie Turk****

Blooming Nonsense**

Until July 12 it was easier to sell a gun in Louisiana than a floral arrangement.

That's the day Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law HB 1407, proving Louisiana is indeed capable of undoing an illegal arrangement - even if it takes us seven decades.

The Institute for Justice, which teamed up with four Louisiana florists in early March to file a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state's florist licensing law, says HB 1407 means Louisiana florists will no longer find themselves fenced out of the industry by an "arbitrary, subjective and antiquated licensing exam in which their own future competitors decide whether they are good enough' to sell floral arrangements." The law, by any measure, was an anti-competitive, anti-consumer scheme, Chauvin v. Strain accurately pointed out. We're talking flowers here, people.

HB 1407, sponsored by Rep. Franklin Foil, abolishes the demonstration portion of the floral licensing exam, while leaving in place, for now, the IJ points out, a short written exam that presents no serious obstacle to would-be florists. The bill flew through both houses of the Louisiana Legislature. Before the new law, Louisiana required would-be florists to pass both a written test and a highly subjective demonstration examination, in which they were given four hours to create four floral arrangements that were then judged by a panel of state-licensed florists - in essence, their future competitors. The written test presents a relatively minor government hoop that people must jump through before they may sell floral arrangements in Louisiana, according to the IJ.

Louisiana is the only state in the union that requires a state license for florists, but undoing it hasn't been easy. The law was challenged in the Legislature unsuccessfully in 2004 and again in 2007; after the law was softened somewhat two years ago, the pass rate jumped from around 60 percent to 77 percent. When Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain was unable to change the statute to eliminate the design test in 2008, he implemented a regulatory system that put more of the grade weight, half, on the written exam. That's when the success rate moved to 77 percent.

"HB 1407 gives aspiring florists and entrepreneurs more freedom to pursue their chosen occupation free from blatantly anti-competitive government interference," says Tim Keller, the IJ's lead counsel in Chauvin v. Strain. "In light of this new law, and the fact that three of our clients have taken and passed the state's written examination, we will declare victory and move to voluntarily dismiss our case."
"Arranging and selling flowers is a completely harmless occupation," adds Keller. "Therefore, the Institute for Justice will continue to monitor the state's written exam to ensure that it remains an insubstantial barrier for would-be florists. If necessary, we are certainly prepared to file a new lawsuit in order to finish the job that HB 1407 started by eliminating the practical exam, which has always been the real root of the problem here in Louisiana."

"There is no need for the government to test or license would-be florists," Keller adds. "The only purpose served by the written exam is to raise funds for the state through licensing fees while setting up unnecessary - but in this case fairly trivial - barriers to entrepreneurship. The Legislature should take the next step and eliminate the written examination."

IJ took the case pro-bono. Founded in 1991, the Virginia-based law firm represents individuals in courtrooms across the country who successfully defend their free speech rights and ability to earn an honest living in the occupations of their choice. It is a public interest, non-profit law firm that advocates in both the court of law and in the court of public opinion. - Leslie Turk

Fiber build-out nearing completion

LUS' fiber network should reach every resident within the city limits by mid-August, with 98 percent of the fiber build-out completed by the end of July, according to LUS Director Terry Huval. LUS originally scheduled to have the citywide network completed in early 2011. Earlier this year, it moved up its projected finish date to July 2010.

In other LUS Fiber news, the telecommunications business once again cut its anticipated revenue for the year in a midyear budget revision approved by the council July 6. LUS reduced its annual revenue projection from $23 million to $11 million, took out another loan from its utilities business, and cut adjusted operating expenses from $19 million to $12 million. LUS made similar moves in budget revisions last year to compensate for a delayed launch in the fiber business.

Huval told the council that the nascent business is meeting its projected break-even target of 23 percent market penetration. Huval added that revenues may have been more in line with projections had the city launched a more aggressive marketing campaign, according to The Advocate, but that a decision was made to wait until the service was available to more residents in order to seek greater impact from its advertising buys. - Nathan Stubbs
Made from petrol

The impact of a slowdown - more accurately a screeching halt - in deepwater Gulf oil production will have widespread ramifications for our economy, and it's not just pain at the pump we're likely to feel. One 42-gallon barrel of oil creates 19.4 gallons of gasoline; the rest (over half) is used to make more than 6,000 known products. According to Ranken Energy Corp., those everyday items include:

Diesel Fuel
Motor Oil
Insect Repellent
Floor Wax
Ballpoint Pens
Football Cleats
Bicycle Tires
Sports Car Bodies
Panty Hose
Life Jackets
Nail Polish
Fishing Lures
Golf Bags
Dishwasher Parts
Tool Boxes
Shoe Polish
Motorcycle Helmets
Petroleum Jelly
Transparent Tape
CD Players
Faucet Washers
Food Preservatives
Tennis Rackets
Ice Chests

Feldman won't step down from moratorium case

The federal judge who nixed the Obama administration's six-month moratorium on deepwater Gulf of Mexico drilling will not recuse himself from the case.

Several environmental groups and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar are pushing for U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman to withdraw from the case because of his investments in several oil and gas companies. Feldman, who sold some of his interest in the oil firms before hearing the case, said July 16 he will not step down because the motion for disqualification is "without merit."

Following Feldman's decision that the moratorium was not justified and could cause severe economic hardship for the Gulf Coast region, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the government's bid to restore the ban on new permits for deepwater drilling and suspension of 33 exploratory drilling projects.

The Obama administration responded by issuing a new moratorium that it hopes will pass legal muster. - Leslie Turk