Wisconsin Edges Closer to Trimming Beauty Licensing

Last month, lawmakers in the lower house of Wisconsin Legislature started debating Assembly Bill 167, which would reduce onerous licensing requirements for barbers, cosmetologists and other beauty professionals. While the state Assembly is still working to advance the bill, the state Senate has moved ahead and passed its own template for reform.

Senate Bills 108 and 109 both passed the upper chamber last Wednesday. SB 108 would eliminate continuing education requirements for cosmetologists, barbers, manicurists, aestheticians and electrologists. It would also eliminate a burdensome requirement that people moving to Wisconsin show 4,000 hours of experience in another state before Wisconsin will honor their out-of-state licenses for those professions.

SB 109 would allow licensed beauticians to legally work outside a licensed salon or barber shop, as long they are affiliated with one. SB 109, which corresponds to AB 167, would also eliminate “manager” licenses for entrepreneurs who want to manage their own establishments. But in a departure from the original bill, the amended version would instead transition the mandatory “instructor” license to a voluntary certificate for beauticians who want to teach their craft to eager students and colleagues.

“The bills that passed the Senate and the proposals pending in the Assembly are helpful steps in the right direction on much-needed licensing reform,” said Collin Roth, a research fellow for the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL). “But lawmakers should go further to help local entrepreneurs thrive and create jobs here in Wisconsin. It’s not enough to just cut back some of the economically harmful red tape that Wisconsin’s licensing regime creates; lawmakers should completely get rid of unnecessary regulations that undermine job growth and a healthy economy.”

In their March 2017 report, “Fencing Out Opportunity: The Effect of Licensing Regulations on Employment,” WILL analyzed the Institute for Justice’s (IJ) data on occupational licensing requirements along with the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s data for 10 low- and moderate-income professions, including beauty professionals like cosmetologists and aestheticians. Using an econometric analysis that examined the impact of licensing requirements for those professions across all 50 states, WILL researchers found that states with more burdensome licensure requirements (including fees, training hours, exams and age requirements) had significantly lower levels of employment.

IJ’s “License to Work” report determined Wisconsin to be the 28th most extensively and onerously licensed state across 102 moderate-income occupations in 2012. But the more recent and narrowly focused “Fencing Out Opportunity” found the Badger State has the fifth most burdensome licensure scheme on the 10 occupations it studied.

According to WILL research from November 2016, the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) regulates more than 440,000 occupational credential holders, including 370,000 non-trade professionals. That amounts to a 34-percent growth among license holders (excluding trades) in the last two decades, and a whopping 84-percent growth among license types (excluding trades) in the same period.

All this regulation has a high cost. Requiring hardworking Wisconsin to get government permission slips to earn an honest living costs consumers more than $1.9 billion and result in more than 31,000 fewer jobs ever year.

Wisconsin lawmakers can give themselves permission to change the status quo. But first, they’ll have to get back to work.

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