Beauty school pushes back against occupational licensing bill

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Cosmetologists across Tennessee are required to obtain a license for their profession before taking on clients.

According to state law, cosmetologists are required to undergo a minimum of 1,500 hours of training and education to obtain a license.

House Bill 1945 and Senate Bill 1914 would eliminate the need for a cosmetology license, as well as licenses for 26 other occupations.

However, on Friday, SB 1914 was “effectively killed” by its Senate sponsor.

MORE: Proposed occupational license bill effectively ‘killed’ by senator

Adam Brown, owner of Tennessee School of Beauty, said the bill would be a serious violation of consumer protection.

He said if passed, it would mean that anyone can say they’re a hairstylist.

“It could be a 10-year-old little girl off the street doing somebody’s hair and if I sign saying I understand you’re not licensed, that’s fine. In essence, they are deregulating the cosmetology industry,” Brown said.

He pointed out the fact that every state requires a cosmetology license.

As a person who owns a school that prepares a cosmetologist to get their license, Brown said his business would be impacted, but that wasn’t his main concern.

“Besides the fact that (hairstylists) are using very sharp implements, there’s a lot of chemicals that are being out there, and then just the sanitation. It’s not like you’re putting Lysol on a comb after you do someone’s hair,” Brown said.

RELATED: TN bill that would remove license requirements for 25+ jobs filed for introduction

State Rep. Martin Daniel, the sponsor of HB 1945, said his reasoning for filing the bill is because licenses prevent someone from entering their career of choice and raises prices for the consumer.

“In many cases, these licenses are not really related to public health, safety or welfare. They’re simply the product of special interest lobbying trying to erect barriers to entry into these occupations,” Daniel said.

He also said that licensing for the same occupations listed in his bill wouldn’t vanish.

People would still be able to apply for a cosmetology license, and customers can still choose to use a licensed professional.

He said that the bill would allow more choices for customers, especially cheaper options.

Daniel also said that 75 years ago, only 5% of occupations required a license, but now it’s 25% of occupations.

“Many of these occupations, the licenses simply don’t make sense. So we have auctioneers. To auctioneer, you have to undergo two years of training. To become a cosmetologist, you have to undergo one year of training. But on the other hand, an EMT only has to undergo 40 hours of training,” Daniel said.

Jenn Yeager, owner of Salon Yeager, said that EMTs could be the ones seeing more work if unlicensed cosmetologists were able to practice.

She said the bill would allow for anyone who watches videos online to say they know what they are doing and work on someone’s hair, without knowing the safety practices that licensed cosmetologists learn in school.

“I know the chemicals behind it, I understand the pH that’s in the chemicals that I’m using and I understand what they contradict with, what reactions can happen. I know the questions to ask the guest that sits in my chair to make sure that we’re not going to have those reactions,” Yeager said.

She also said that deregulation is a slap in the face to those who worked hard for their licenses.

“The cosmetology and barbering industries are primarily minority owned. Seventy-five percent of them are owned by women, and when we look at races, roughly 57% are owned by a combination of African American, Asian and other (minority) ethnicities,” Yeager said.

In response to Daniel stating that it gives the customer the choice to hire someone they trust and sign an agreement saying they know that person is unlicensed, she said people are smart enough to make their own choices, but they might not be informed enough to know if the unlicensed person is the best option.

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