All The Worst Things About Louisiana’s Legislature Came Together To Kill This Year’s Hair-Braiding Bill

There are days when the inescapable conclusion you come to about why Louisiana ranks at or near the bottom of all of those public policy metric ratings is “Because we deserve it.” And today, when HB 564 by Rep. Julie Emerson (that’s this year’s iteration of the bill to deregulate hair braiding) died on the House floor on a 44-44 vote, nine short of passage, was one of those days.

The bill didn’t come up for a vote until about 6:30 in the evening, at the very end of a long legislative session, and because of that fact there were 17 House members absent for it. Of those 17, nine were Republicans and it’s a decent bet all of them would have been “yes” votes – or at least there could well have been a Democrat or two who might have been for the bill to offset any R’s who voted no.

Maybe. But we can’t guarantee much of anything at this point – because for some reason there were Republicans voting to continue regulating the living hell out of quite possibility the most obvious candidate profession for deregulation there is.

Specifically…

Larry Bagley
Johnny Berthelot
Steve Carter
Bubba Chaney
Chris Hazel
Frank Hoffmann
Sherman Mack
Stephen Pugh
Steve Pylant
Clay Schexnayder
Joe Stagni
Jerome Zeringue

A lot of these people have earned reputation as RINO’s. None of them have particularly distinguished themselves as conservatives.

Let’s be honest about this – we still have a lot of, essentially, used-car salesmen in the legislature who struggle to spell policy, much less understand how to properly make it. And we as voters put those people in office time and time again – because we don’t decide our state-level elections on policy. We’ll do that when we’re voting for a congressman or senator, but when it comes to the gubernatorial race, the secondary statewide races and the legislature, it’s mostly other factors – stupid factors related to how well a candidate does retail politics, where the legislature is concerned – which govern who wins.

Like for example with respect to Schexnayder, who is – let’s face it – terrible.

This is a Republican who is in the Louisiana legislature because Edwin Edwards’ gold-digging trophy wife Trina decided to make him her social media celebrity cause celebre, and that’s why he was elected over a number of other far more worthy candidates. And since he won election in 2011 he’s been one of those votes that business and conservative lobbyists have sweated on even the most obvious bills – and some of the bills he’s brought to the legislature have been exactly the wrong kind of legislation one could expect to lift the state off the bottom of all those public policy metrics.

So when Louisiana ranks among the six worst states in the country in terms of placing barriers to workforce entry based on stupid and onerous regulations and licensing requirements, and when there’s a bill which would alleviate that in regard to a profession which is overwhelmingly by and for a predominantly poor community in Louisiana with a dearth of people in the workforce and a desperate need to bring people out of the cash economy and into the real economy, it’s an excellent opportunity for the used-car salesman retail politicians to step up and prove the “R” next to their names actually means something and to show they have an actual clue how to do things that will make this a better place to live and work.

That’s an opportunity the abovementioned state representatives completely squandered.

And Schexnayder did more than that. He actually went to the floor to oppose the bill. Here’s how that went…

One gets the sense that Schexnayder couldn’t do that kind of work even with training.

But what’s even worse about all this is that of the 24 members of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus in the House, 22 voted against the bill, with two, Gary Carter and Dustin Miller, being absent for the vote.

Why on earth would the Legislative Black Caucus be opposed to a bill that would make it easier for someone doing hair braiding, which is a practice favored more by black consumers and performed more by black practitioners than anyone else?

Your guess is as good as ours. Especially since last year almost all of them supported this bill. The only reason they’re at the legislature even talking about hair braiding, as obscure as it is, is that it’s the absolute most indefensibly licensed profession in the state and the bill is a test case for just how ridiculous Louisiana’s occupational licensure laws will continue to be.

One theory we heard floated Wednesday evening, which apparently came from what one member of the caucus told a lobbyist working on the bill, is that they were upset that Emerson, who is white, was the author of the bill. That wasn’t a problem last year when Emerson brought the bill, and now it apparently is.

Another theory has it that Gov. John Bel Edwards has completely lost the Legislative Black Caucus – which he has, and that was proved during the failed special session in March in which the caucus refused to support a bipartisan sales tax renewal proposal which would have helped fund some of Edwards’ spending initiatives – and given that he offered occupational licensing reform as an agenda item for this year, so they’re denying him one element of that.

We don’t know. What we do know is it’s unexcusable for someone who purports to represent a community which desperately needs jobs and new business owners to turn away from supporting legislation making it a little easier for members of that community to do jobs and start businesses.

Inexcusable.

And it’s long past time for members of that community to start asking rude questions about the quality of the representation it’s getting. When you run for the state legislature you’re supposed to be trying to help make things better for your constituents, and the obvious first step in doing that is to make it easier for them to make things better for themselves. Instead, we have 44 state legislators actively rejecting an easy opportunity to do that and a bill which passed the House by an 81-12 margin only got 44 votes this year.

Those 44 legislators, Republicans and Democrats, are frankly a disgrace to the people of this state. Their vote Wednesday night was abjectly stupid, and they’ve held themselves out to be willing to persist in onerous and tyrannical licensing requirements for a low-wage profession based on a household skill any intelligent person would agree doesn’t pose a safety threat to the public.

Color us disgusted. And do us a favor – make sure these people are put out of politics at the next opportunity.

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