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A bill recently introduced in the Louisiana House of Representatives could bring a halt to the use of private professional certifications in that state. Certifications that are offered by trade associations and other private organizations by groups such as the Interlocking Concrete Pavement Institute (ICPI) would be outlawed. If the bill passes, the risks to certification programs could eventually expand beyond Louisiana to other states.

The Occupational Licensing Review Act (Louisiana House Bill 748) was introduced in March by Louisiana state Rep. Julie Emerson. The bill passed the House by a vote of 87-7 and seems to be on its way to passage in the Senate. The bill is supported by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The bill could become law by mid-May before the legislature is scheduled to adjourn.

Prohibits private use of “certification”

The bill would prohibit the use of the term “certification” by any private organization offering a voluntary professional certification. The bill reserves the right to use the term “certification” only to a state entity regulating that profession or skill.

For many years, the landscape contracting industry has used professional certifications to enable consumers to evaluate the skills and competencies of contractors that they hire.

Popular certifications such as those delivered through the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), state landscape and nursery associations and private organizations such as ICPI would be made ineffective in Louisiana by the bill.

The Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association, for example, would lose the ability to call its Certified Nursery and Landscape Professional a certification. NALP and its certified professionals would lose their ability to use the term Landscape Industry Certified Technician in the state.

Bill seeks to reduce certifications and licenses

The bill has been promoted as a way to remove onerous licensure requirements on certain occupations in Louisiana. Louisiana has more state occupational licensure requirements than all but five other states, licensing occupations such as interior designers, hair braiders, shampooers, eyebrow threaders, florists and, yes, landscape contractors (called “landscape horticulturists” in Louisiana).

The bill, while eviscerating all private sector certifications, will require that the governor of Louisiana review at least 20 percent of the remaining state licensure programs every five years to determine whether they play a constructive role in protecting public health and safety. The bill provides the state with complete control over which occupational and professional certification and licensure programs exist in Louisiana.

Associations react to bill

The bill has caused a strong reaction among the association industry. The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has come out strongly against the bill.

In a legislative alert to its members in Louisiana, ASAE wrote, “If enacted, this legislation will have a chilling effect on association professional certifications in Louisiana, as well as their use as prerequisites for occupational licensing for many licensed professionals in the state.”

Bob Mann, NALP’s director of state and local affairs, said that the legislation is a potential threat to NALP’s certification programs, especially if it spreads to other states. Mann said NALP is taking a close look at the bill.

Why this matters

If you are using industry certification programs in Pennsylvania or California, why should this matter? Experience shows that laws passed by one state can easily spread to another. Legislators meet in an annual conference each year (National Conference of State Legislatures) to swap ideas about laws they can pass back home. Concepts like this can quickly spread to other states through legislators as they talk to colleagues.

Landscape contractors in Louisiana should take a look at the bill and decide whether industry certifications are important to you. If they are, you should contact your state senator as soon as possible to register your opinion.

About the Author:

Gregg Robertson, Landscape Management's government relations blogger, is a government relations consultant for the Pennsylvania Landscape & Nursery Association (PLNA) and president of Conewago Ventures. From 2002 until May 2013 he served as president of PLNA. Reach him at

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