When Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law the state’s newest budget bill, he approved provisions exempting hair braiding from regulation by the state’s Board of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences.
The law frees Iowa hair braiders from mandatory occupational licensing requirements. Previously, state laws required hair braiders to take 2,100 hours of cosmetology training, including education on the application of makeup, and were required to pay annual fees to the government.
Branstad vetoed provisions that would have authorized the Iowa Department of Health to write new regulations on hair braiding and would have required braiders to pay for annual, government-mandated training courses and testing.
In a letter to lawmakers, Branstad stated regulating hair braiding was not a core purpose of government.
“Licensing and regulations should only be mandated when necessary to serve public health or safety,” Branstad wrote. “Natural hair braiding does not require government mandates, regulations, or licensing.”
Don Racheter, president of the Public Interest Institute, says occupational licensing regulations harm the economy and don’t protect consumers.
“I believe they are hurtful,” Racheter said. “We need to certify people if they have a skill set, so they can hold themselves out as qualified, but study after study has shown licensure just creates barriers to entry and drives prices up without improving safety. Why should a hair braider have to do [2,100] hours in cosmetology school, which has no classes on hair braiding? Lots of barriers to entry keep jobs from being formed and [keep] the economy from growing.”
Racheter says occupational licensing rules are more about politics and money than public health.
“If things were right in the world, all licensure would be repealed,” Racheter said. “But providers who benefit are organized and vocal and make campaign contributions, while those who would benefit are not.”
Edward Timmons, an associate professor of economics at St. Francis University, says economists have found occupational licensing hurts more than it helps.
“Research has generally shown that occupational licensing imposes more harm than benefit,” Timmons said. “The harm comes in the form of higher prices of services from licensed professionals and also higher barriers to enter a profession for aspiring jobseekers.”
‘Makes a Lot of Sense’
Timmons says the reforms benefit Iowans at the expense of lobbyists and government agencies.
“Deregulation of hair braiding makes a lot of sense in Iowa,” Timmons said. “Professional groups lobby legislators to keep licensing in place. Licensing boards also generally serve as a source of revenue for state governments. It also leads to higher prices for consumers.”
Matt Hurley ([email protected]) writes from Cincinnati, Ohio.
Morris Kleiner, et al., “Barriers to Labor Migration: The Case of Occupational Licensing,” Industrial Relations, September 1, 1982: https://heartland.org/policy-documents/barriers-labor-migration-case-occupational-licensing/