A group of Nebraska state senators on the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee are hosting roundtable discussions to hear perspectives on occupational licensing reform. The meetings are an informal part of their upcoming interim study on licensing laws affecting a range of personal care professions.
The first of these discussions took place at the State Capitol on August 1, focusing on licensing for barbering and cosmetology.
Nebraska’s government-mandated training for these jobs is among the country’s costliest and most time-consuming, requiring 2,100 hours of training at a cosmetology or barbering school.
A study by the American Enterprise Institute found that Nebraska’s cosmetologists took on the third highest amount of student debt nationally thanks to these laws, which benefit the bottom line of the training schools.
In the roundtable discussion, Platte Institute Director of Government Relations Nicole Fox drew attention to the fact that most states require around 1,500 hours to provide the training students need to pass nationally-recognized industry exams.
Groups that oppose occupational licensing reform, including the barber and cosmetology schools, state licensing boards, and some currently licensed practitioners, countered that point with a new and interesting argument:
“Believe it or not, a big part of their reasoning for making it harder to get a cosmetology or barber license in Nebraska is that they see their field as being in the fashion industry,” said Nicole Fox.
“They tried to say that by requiring more schooling by law, Nebraska’s hair stylists would be better acquainted with the latest fashion trends,” said Fox.
Of course, if there is any point of requiring a government license for hair care, securing the right of Nebraskans to perfectly coifed hairdos isn’t it.
The government’s proper role in regulating this type of business is to make sure the public doesn’t fall victim to fraudulent practices, or unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
Common sense can tell you it doesn’t take 2,100 hours to teach for those concerns. For one, most states already have professionals safely barbering and providing cosmetology services with far less time in the classroom. Also, professions that involve far more risk and danger, including Emergency Medical Technicians, can be sufficiently trained in a far shorter period of time.
The bizarre idea that the state needs to be involved in making sure Nebraska’s hair professionals are style-savvy hints at a bigger problem that exists in government today, and job licensing is only one symptom.
Private businesses shouldn’t have a special right to use government regulations to subsidize their business activities.
Licensing is a government function. Everyone should have a say in how those policies are created: consumers, workers, and business alike. No one group should be able to capture these policies and use them to make profits that they wouldn’t be able to make in the marketplace, or to create barriers for potential competitors.
Nothing prevents cosmetology and barbering schools, or any other personal care industry, from offering private certifications and trainings for techniques and aesthetic trends. But these schools prefer the law to stay as is because they can currently force people to pay an exorbitant price for their product as a condition of entering the field.
Without policies written in their favor, they would have to persuade students to spend the additional money to attend more trainings they may think are valuable for the industry, but are not truly essential for safe practice of the profession.
The schools might even have to provide some students with compelling evidence that their extra 600 hours of training will make them better able to serve customers and earn a good living once they’re working in the industry.
Getting people to part with their money voluntarily is hard work, but that is a challenge shared by most businesses in existence today. The government’s job is to be a referee when people in conflict can’t solve problems on their own.
It’s not the government’s job to favor one side in a transaction by twisting regulations to the benefit of established businesses.
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