One of the largest regulatory agencies in Texas has backed off punishing an entrepreneur with a $2,500 fine. From her boutique near Waco, Texas, Cynthia Kool offered a one-day workshop on how to best apply eyelash extensions. Attendees learn a wide variety of “basic and advanced techniques.” Although Cynthia is a licensed eyelash extension specialist, she never claimed her short course would satisfy any part of the state’s license requirement, which takes 320 hours of coursework.
But that course ran afoul of Texas regulators. In November, the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation accused Cynthia of teaching cosmetology without a license and levied an administrative fine of $2,500 against her.
Before she could continue to teach her one-day course, Cynthia would have to return to cosmetology school and finish 750 hours of training to become a full-blown licensed cosmetology instructor. Cynthia would also be forced to “open a fully-equipped cosmetology school (including satisfying all the mandatory facility requirements).” Unless she paid the fine, Cynthia was even banned from renewing her shop license.
In late April, the Institute for Justice wrote to the Department expressing “concerns regarding the constitutionality” of the TDLR’s actions. By slapping Cynthia with a hefty fine, the “TDLR’s enforcement action against Ms. Kool not only violates her rights under the Fourteenth Amendment, but it also burdens her expressive activity in violation of the First Amendment.”
Recent legal precedent secured by IJ bolstered those claims. Last year, the Institute for Justice scored a major court victory when a federal judge rejected the TDLR’s attempt to force Isis Brantley, a nationally-renowned African hair braider, to turn her braiding school into a barber college. The regulations in Texas were so burdensome, not a single school that taught just the hair-braiding curriculum could comply with the law.
Later in 2015, IJ prevailed yet again against the TDLR when the Texas Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in favor of economic liberty. By a vote of 6 to 3, the Court ruled that the Department ordering eyebrow threaders to become licensed cosmetologists (which takes 750 of training) was “so burdensome as to be oppressive.”
Fortunately for Cynthia, less than a month after IJ put the TDLR on notice, the Department decided to set aside the fine. Absurdly, the Department now claimed “there was insufficient information to determine that [Cynthia’s] actions constituted a violation.” Tellingly, the TDLR also refused to tell Cynthia or IJ if it would fine Cynthia for teaching her workshop in the future. The Institute for Justice will continue to be on the lookout for any threats by the TDLR against Cynthia and her boutique.
Cynthia and Isis are hardly the only Texans affected by onerous licensing laws. A 2012 report by the Institute for Justice found that fire alarm installers, athletic trainers, barbers, manicurists, midwives and massage therapists all need more training for their licenses than emergency medical technicians need for theirs. Today, nearly one in every four Texans needs a permission slip from the government before they can legally work.