South Dakota Senate Passes Bill to Untangle Hair Braiding From Occupational Licensing

The South Dakota Senate today unanimously approved HB 1048, a bill that would exempt natural hair braiding from the state’s cosmetology laws. State law currently requires braiders to finish 2,100 hours of cosmetology training before they can legally work—the highest in the nation.

“Today’s vote is a win for entrepreneurship, economic liberty, and just plain common-sense,” noted Lee McGrath, Legislative Counsel at the Institute for Justice. “The government has no business regulating something as safe and common as braiding hair.”

If signed by Gov. Dennis Daugaard, South Dakota would join 20 other states that have exempted hair braiding from a tangled mess of state cosmetology laws.

With a rich heritage spanning millennia, natural hair braiding is a popular beauty practice in many African-American communities. Unlike cosmetologists, braiders do not cut hair or use any harsh chemicals or dyes. Yet in South Dakota and 15 other states, braiders must first obtain a cosmetology license, which forces braiders to waste thousands of dollars on tuition to learn skills that are completely irrelevant to their occupation.

“This victory for a handful of braiders in South Dakota means more that it appears. It is another blow against occupational licensing, one of America’s biggest labor problems,” McGrath added. “More and more state legislators are realizing there is no difference between freeing braiders and freeing other professions because they are increasingly recognizing that a provider’s reputation is the best consumer protection.”

Since its founding, IJ has protected the rights of braiders in the District of Columbia, California, OhioArizonaMississippiMinnesotaUtahTexasWashington, Arkansas and Iowa. IJ is currently challenging the licensing of hair braiders in Missouri. Last year, the Institute published a report, Barriers to Braiding: How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape, which found that braiders received very few complaints, and that strict licensing laws stifle economic opportunity.

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