There is another jewel of Huey Long's patronage legacy being examined under the long loupe of the law. Back during his second stint as governor, Huey's brother Earl established certain licensing requirements that gave him a Horticulture Commission to which he could appoint his loyal supporters.
Since 1950, anyone wishing to arrange flowers for a living had to get a Florist's License from the State of Louisiana. Sounds simple enough, but oh, no - if you're going to be the only state of the several states to license florists, by dingies you better do it up in style!
First there's a simple matter of an application fee of $150 and a written test. A written test - that was liable to cull out a lot of people in 1950 and an inordinate number even today, although that isn't the Horticulture Commission's fault. But most folks interested enough in flowers and the tasteful arrangement thereof are probably sufficiently grounded in botany to pass the licensing exam.
Just to add to the third-world socialist governmental intrusion, the other critical requirement is to pass a practical exam which consists of creating four floral arrangements in as many hours. You'd think that ought to be fairly easy - and it's not like you're performing surgery, rebuilding a transmission or calibrating a pressure-relief valve - but you'd be soooooo very wrong. No, these arrangements have to be judged by licensed florists who might, just possibly, have an interest in limiting the number of licensed florists with which they have to compete in the marketplace.
The story you about to hear is true, the names have been changed and the dialogue Montypythonized for your entertainment.
(The story appearing in today's edition of Baton Rouge's Advocate is even truer, but it's not as funny. Seems the FLORISTS in question are filing a suit against the Horticulture Commission to repeal the licensing requirements.)
(To add to the embarrassment of our state, syndicated columnist Rich Lowry got ahold of the story, detailed the foolishness and noted the Pythonesque quality.)
What about the STORY schmed?
Right. Here goes...
[MAN enters a florist's and walks up to the counter]
FLORIST: Good morning! what can I do for you today?
MAN: I'd like to buy a floral arrangement.
FLORIST: Ahhhhh, an arrangement. I see...
MAN: Yes, something festive - you see, my mother-in-law is deathly ill in hospital and I thought flowers would be just the thing to, ahhh ...
FLORIST: [helpfully] To lift her spirits, sir?
MAN: Oh, no no no - she's comatose, no. I just thought they'd look nice in my office. I'm sort of in the mood for flowers today.
FLORIST: I see. [gesturing] Well then, please come along through here and I'll show you our flowers.
MAN: No need for that, I'm certain you can put something together that will be most satisfactory - I'm in too good of a mood to be particular.
FLORIST: [troubled] I'm afraid it's not quite that simple...
MAN: [sensing trouble] Not simple? Just put a few posies in a pot and I'll be on my way.
FLORIST: [resignedly] I can't. It's illegal.
MAN [incredulous] ILLEGAL? I'm not asking for opium poppies!
FLORIST: No not the flowers themselves - got lot's of them - it's the arranging. I can't get a license.
MAN: A LICENSE? For arranging flowers? Why in hell would you need a license?
FLORIST: Not in hell squire, but close - it's state law. Have to get one from the Horticulture Commission. I've paid the fee and passed the written test 6 times, but I can't get the judges to pass me on the practical exam.
MAN: Practical exam?
FLORIST: Yes - I'm given four hours to create four arrangements deemed suitable by the panel of licensed florists. Two of them practice licensed floristry here in town, and they've blackballed me six times straight.
MAN: So what do you do?
FLORIST: I sell flowers in bunches.
MAN: Well, isn't a bunch technically an arrangement?
FLORIST: Oh not at all - y'see, an arrangement is the mixing of different kinds of flowers.
MAN: Then what good is that? I've neither the skill nor the time to be picking my way past peonies and tweaking tulips 'round renegade roses - I need this done by a professional! Good day!
FLORIST: Rot the Government!