A year ago, Arizona cosmetology student Juan Carlos Montesdeoca was threatened with six months in jail for the high crime of offering free haircuts to Tucson’s homeless population as a way to honor his mother’s battle with cancer. The Grand Canyon State bans the practice of unlicensed cosmetology, which includes everything from cutting hair to foot massages—even between a parent and their own child. Arizona’s Board of Cosmetology could even ban people like Juan Carlos from ever receiving a license to practice legally in the state. So the board demanded that Juan Carlos cease and desist from his efforts to help the less fortunate.
Fortunately, public outcry, threats from the Institute for Justice (IJ), and a critical response from Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey forced the board to back off. But the underlying laws that created the problem in the first place remained on the books. But if the governor has his way, the status quo could soon change.
In his 2018 State of the State address to the Arizona Legislature this week, Ducey called on state lawmakers to ask why burdensome laws exist—like the cosmetology regulations that ensnared Juan Carlos—and he challenged them to roll it back and empower hardworking Arizonans to earn an honest living:
While bureaucrats in Washington DC target Arizona’s Salt River horses, we’re targeting needless state regulations.
Last year we wiped out 676. Eliminated them. And our estimates show that these reforms have saved real people more than $48 million. That’s the equivalent of a $48 million tax cut, without costing the general fund one dollar. But we’re not stopping there. For decade, after decade, after decade, red tape has been added – and for too long, no one in government ever stopped to ask “why?”
Well, Juan Carlos in Tucson did ask “why.” Juan Carlos wanted to give back, providing haircuts to homeless veterans. The way he saw it – it was a way to recognize their service, and give them a helpful hand, maybe to prepare for a job interview.
That was, until the bullies at the State Cosmetology Board sought to stop him and stall his career, because he hadn’t yet kissed their ring.
This is the kind of service that should be celebrated – not sanctioned.
The governor went on to note that state bureaucrats are still going after hardworking taxpayers like Juan Carlos, stating that Arizona regulations require “people who simply want to make a living blow-drying hair” without even using scissors to undergo 1,000 hours (about 25 weeks ) of training. This licensing requirement makes it more difficult to legally blow-dry hair in Arizona than become an EMT, certified nursing assistant or truck driver.
IJ also asks why. Why is Arizona hindering economic growth instead of encouraging it? The recently released second edition of IJ’s report, “License to Work,” ranks Arizona as the fourth most broadly and onerously licensed state, with the fourth most burdensome licensing laws. Although this marks a modest improvement over its standing in IJ’s 2012 report—which ranked the state as the most extensively and onerously licensed in the U.S.—Arizona still ranks behind nearly every other state.
Arizona lawmakers should heed the governor’s call for reform and ensure the Grand Canyon State is actually open for business. IJ has plenty of ideas that can help, including the Model Occupational Licensing Review Law, which would increase competition, lower prices for consumers, and make it easier for entrepreneurs like Juan Carlos to earn an honest living.