Lawmaker wants to lower requirements to style hair

Bill focuses on people who do things other than cut hair

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Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (Capitol Media Services 2017 file photo by Howard Fischer)

PHOENIX — The way Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita figures it, no one ever died from a bad hair style or blow dry — at least not literally.

So the Scottsdale Republican wants to repeal a state law which says you can’t style hair in Arizona without at least 1,100 hours of training at a state-licensed school.

Ugenti-Rita said she was approached by lobbyists for Drybar, a decade-old national firm that specializes in quickie blowouts. That can include everything from a shampoo to simply putting someone’s hair up with pins.

The firm already has three locations in the state.

Only thing is, to do even just that in Arizona requires a state license, something Ugenti-Rita said could cost close to $10,000.

“When they told me about the scope of their business, you could clearly see that it was an impediment to them hiring, and for someone to be hired, simply to hire them for blowing out hair — blowouts they’re called — and style,” she said. Ugenti-Rita said what’s being done there is far different than a beauty salon.

“You can’t even get hair cutting,” she said. “They don’t have scissors there.”

Nor do they do things like hair coloring or use chemicals to make a perm.

“They blow it out, style, arrange, they curl,” Ugenti-Rita said. “Maybe they use some bobby pins.”

Bottom line, she said, is her belief that nothing being done there should require a state-issued license.

“I don’t see a public health or safety issue,” she said.

Her HB 2011 would create an exception from licensing for those who “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot iron or shampoo and condition hair” as long as there are no “reactive chemicals to permanently straighten, curl or alter the structure of the hair.”

“The worst that can happen is you don’t like the way your hair is styled,” Ugenti-Rita explained, as there would be no cutting and no permanent change to someone’s hair.

Prior efforts to create exemptions have been met with sometimes fierce opposition from the cosmetology community — the people who already have the licenses and the board which regulates them which is dominated by those in the field and those who teach at schools which are now the precursors of licensing.

As far back as 1983, Douglas Norton, who was the state auditor general at the time, recommended to lawmakers that they scrap all laws requiring licenses of all cosmetologists or barbers.

“Licensing is not justified because of possible harm from the use of barber implements or chemical solutions because such items are readily available to and routinely used by the general public,” Norton said. But legislators ignored the report amid stiff opposition from the regulated community.

There has been some move toward deregulation more recently, albeit on a piecemeal basis.

In 2004, over the objection of cosmetologists, lawmakers decided that people who only braid hair for a living no longer have to be licensed.

Seven years later, the board agreed to stop trying to regulate “threading,” the practice of using thread to pluck eyebrows. But that came only after the Institute for Justice filed suit.

And earlier this year, Gov. Doug Ducey personally interceded when the board sought to shut down the operation of Juan Carlos Montes de Oca for giving free haircuts to the homeless in a Tucson park.

There was no immediate response from the cosmetology board to the proposal.

Gubernatorial press aide Daniel Scarpinato said his boss has not yet seen the measure. But he suggested the proposal would get the approval of his boss if it makes its way through the Legislature.

“The governor’s bias would be toward making it easier for people to do it, especially if we’re not talking about anything that would jeopardize public health or safety,” Scarpinato said.

“We’d want to know the details and talk to the people that are dealing firsthand with it,” he continued. “But if we can get more people who otherwise would not be able to get hired for a job in there without them having to spend a lot of money on fees or education, that’s something the governor would be very much in favor of.”