African hair braiders have safely twisted, weaved and braided hair for millennia. Yet Iowa forces these entrepreneurs to get licenses in cosmetology, even though braiders shun the use of chemicals and dyes.
By requiring 2,100 hours of largely irrelevant training, Iowa is actually tied for the worst state to be a braider, according to a 2014 report by the Institute for Justice. Moreover, cosmetology schools can charge nearly $20,000 for their courses. Clearly, that is an enormous hurdle to entrepreneurship. These burdens can be particularly detrimental to those in working-class and immigrant communities.
But a new bill, HF 31, would exempt “African-style hair braiding” from the state’s cosmetology laws, meaning braiders would not have to obtain a cosmetologist license to legally work. The reform would provide some much-needed regulatory relief to hair braiders in Iowa. Last month, HF 31 passed a House subcommittee. The Des Moines Register even penned an editorial in favor: “Supporting this bill should be a no-brainer for our elected officials.”
Unfortunately, burdensome licensing isn’t limited to braiding.One out of every three Iowans now needs permission from the government before they can do their jobs. A separate study by the Institute for Justice found that in Iowa, dental assistants, massage therapists and make-up artists, among others, all need more experience for their licenses than emergency medical technicians.
— Nick Sibilla
Nick Sibilla is a writer at the Institute for Justice