Hair Braider Freedom

Center Supports Cape Verdean Woman, Others, in Quest for Hair Braiding Freedom. Hearing Today

Regulations Inhibit Many From Pursuing Financial Freedom
Joceyln DoCouto Cannot Afford Onerous Licensing Requirements

Providence, RI — Hair braiding is a cultural and practical art-form for Jocelyn DoCouto and her family, which hails from Senegal and Cape Verde. Yet, unable to afford the burdensome levels of fees and training required to receive permission from the government to legally work in a field that presents no safety risks, Jocelyn, as well as other would-be entrepreneurs, are not able to turn this generationally-developed natural hair practice into a legitimate business that would provide them with hope for financial independence.

With a hearing scheduled for this afternoon, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today joins with the RI Families Coalition in support of regulatory reforms that would free natural hair braiders from the occupational licensing mandates currently imposed on the harmless practice. Across the country, recognizing the need to encourage honest work, conservatives and liberals are banding together to advance related reforms.

Legislation sponsored by Representative Anastasia Williams (H5436) would allow natural hair braiders to engage in legal work without the mandate to obtain the same permission from the government that is required of cosmeticians and hairdressers.

“This licensing burden is especially harmful to many people who would prefer to start new careers and earn paychecks instead of receiving welfare checks,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, who also plans to tesitfy today. In 2016 Rhode Island ranked a dismal 44th in ‘entrepreneurship’ according to the national Family Prosperity Index. “Unfair and unreasonable occupational licensing restrictions must be repealed if we want more Rhode Islanders to have a chance to improve their quality of life and engage in entrepreneurial commerce.”

Anti Free-Market, Protectionist Policies? It is a common scheme for advocates of certain industries to lobby government to impose strict licensing requirements in order to create barriers to competition. According to a 2012 report by the Center, many such occupational licensing mandates have a disproportionate and negative impact on low-income workers, who often can’t afford the time or money to meet the sometimes onerous and unnecessary requirements.

Further, the Institute for Justice, in 2016, reported that there were 16 states in the United States that required hair braiders to get a “cosmetology” license, which could involve spending hundreds or thousands of hours in training and hundred or thousands of dollars on tuition or fees. In these cosmetology classes, students have to learn how to use chemical treatments and how to cut hair – tasks that have nothing to do with braiding hair.

Additionally, 14 states, along with the District of Columbia, require hair braiders to acquire a specialized license. In Mississippi and Iowa, hair braiders have to register with the state. Specialty licenses require 600 hours of classes and can cost thousands of dollars.

However, in recent years, many states, understanding the anti-commerce nature of such “protectionist” policies, have moved to reverse similar anti-jobs mandates. With regard to providing hair braiders the freedom to work, the states of Indiana, South Dakota, Iowa among others have considered licensing repeals for this specific vocation.

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