Religion, Family and the Green Bay Barbers

Wisconsin lawmakers tackle cosmetology licensing reform

Ordained minister and skilled Green Bay barber Albert E. Walker is known for “spiritual rejuvenation” with his haircuts to current and former players for the Green Bay Packers—a service that helps them check all three of Vince Lombardi’s famous priorities. Albert passed the state barber licensing exam after completing 1,000 hours of state-mandated training, and he has spent almost twenty years cutting hair. But if he were to open his acclaimed barber shop to the public, he would face up to $5,000 in fines and three months in prison.

That’s because Albert does not have a barbering manager license, and tuition for the classes—which can reportedly run as high as $20,000—is beyond his budget.

Under current Wisconsin law, professional barbers and other cosmetologists need up to three different licenses to effectively practice their craft and run a business—such as a basic barber or cosmetologist license, an “instructor” license and a “manager” license—each with a different set of applications, requirements and fees. This means professional barbers or cosmetologists anywhere in the state would need one license to do their job, another to teach students or colleagues how to do it, and a third to manage the establishment where they work. And Albert only has and can afford the license to do his job.

But if the Wisconsin Legislature passes Assembly Bill 167, the reverend barber would finally be able to open his doors and grow his business.

With AB 167, Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to streamline the web of red tape currently ensnaring barbers, cosmetologists and other cosmetic professionals statewide. The proposal, which is sponsored by Rep. Joel Kleefisch and 23 other legislators, would repeal redundant license requirements like the barbering manager license and make it easier for licensed barbers and other beauticians to earn an honest living. Specifically, the bill, which is still pending in the state Assembly, would simplify Wisconsin’s existing regulatory framework and eliminate the separate and redundant certificate requirement for barbers and cosmetologists who want to teach their skills to other practitioners.

According to the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) “License to Work” report, Wisconsin is the 28th most extensively and onerously licensed state in the Union. This pending reform to the Badger State’s cosmetology licensing laws could help remove some of that burden from workers and taxpayers who just want a fighting chance to succeed. This expansion of economic liberty would build on a recent IJ courtroom victory in which a state circuit judge struck down Wisconsin’s ban on selling home-baked goods as unconstitutional.

Hardworking people who have undergone the hard work of securing state permission to practice their skill should not have to jump through even higher, costlier hoops to earn a living through those skills. AB 167 would be a critical step in the right direction for inspiring entrepreneurs like Albert Walker and anybody chasing the American Dream in Wisconsin.

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