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Monday, February 13, 2017

Ind. Gov't. - "Lawmaker seeks to untangle regulations on African-American hair-braiding"

From Fatima Hussein's long, worth-reading in full report this weekend in the IndyStar/USA Today:

When the Indiana General Assembly started regulating hair-braiding salons in 1997, Nicole Barnes-Thomas lost her job, her apartment and, quickly, her life unraveled.

Once self-sufficient, she struggled to find work for about a year, then took an office job, though she says it's not what she'd prefer to do.

"It was devastating to say the least," said Barnes-Thomas, who saw Indiana's strict regulation of an African-American tradition as being culturally insensitive at the least and economically devastating at most.

But now Barnes-Thomas has a new ally, one who may seem unusual in these politically polarized times. A white conservative Republican lawmaker from Elkhart, Timothy Wesco, has taken up her cause of hair braiding, a move that is being repeated across the country.

Already, 20 states have ceased regulating the practice, and bills are pending in Missouri, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

Hair-braiding salons are just one of many businesses Republican lawmakers are hoping to deregulate, with Indiana lawmakers considering changes in the licenses of psychologists, mental health counselors and social workers. But hair braiding, which has been an African tradition for thousands of years, is an industry with a nontraditional constituency for most Republican lawmakers. * * *

"I was independent, I loved what I did, and I enjoyed putting a smile on people's faces," Barnes-Thomas said.

That all changed when House Bill 2011 passed into law in 1997, requiring hair braiders to complete cosmetology school in order to be licensed to practice under Indiana law. The change made it an infraction to braid hair without schooling. Currently, if braiders practice their craft without a cosmetology license, they risk committing a misdemeanor, punishable by fine of up to $500 per infraction.

As a result, many women like Barnes-Thomas have been forced to either give up the craft, spend up to $20,000 for tuition in beauty school to complete 1,500 hours of training or simply operate without a cosmetology degree with the fear of getting caught. And while many women have chosen to operate businesses without a license, Barnes-Thomas said she prefers to follow the law.

Wesco proposed House Bill 1243 earlier this year, which would remove natural hair braiding from the cosmetologist licensing requirement. This past week, the bill passed through the Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee and is headed for a full House vote. He said the change would create economic opportunities for potential business owners.

To Wesco, the regulation is a burden on potential small-business owners and "this is a perfect example of regulation we don't need."

There is push back, however, from the profession itself, including hair stylists. Licensing rules ensure the safety of clients, they say.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 13, 2017 02:43 PM
Posted to Indiana Government