Beauticians warn lawmakers of possible health crisis

PHOENIX — Concluding public safety would not be harmed, a House panel voted Monday to let people style and blow dry hair for money without first getting a license from the state.

HB 2011 would repeal a section of law that requires at least 1,000 hours of training at a state-licensed school before anyone can lawfully “dry, style, arrange, dress, curl, hot iron or shampoo and condition hair” for pay.

The bill would not change licensing in cases where there are “reactive chemicals to permanently straighten, curl or alter the structure of the hair.’’

The 5-4 vote by the House Committee on Military, Veterans and Regulatory Affairs came over the objections of dozens of individual stylists, who insisted that the public needs the kind of oversight that now occurs through the State Board of Cosmetology.

Committee members had questions about what is considered styling.

Rep. Michelle Ugenti-Rita — answering a question from Rep. Noel Campbell, R-Prescott — said styling includes using heated curling irons and flat irons. But Ugenti-Rita argued that using such tools does not require special training.

“This is strictly blow-drying hair with tools you can get at Walgreen’s,’’ she said. That includes not only blow dryers but also curling irons and hairspray.

But Tracy Marrs, who said she owns three franchise salons, said it’s not a simple question of what devices unlicensed stylists could use. “It’s more of who are we putting this really hot tool in the hands of,’’ she said, notin stylng that styling irons can get as hot at 450 degrees.

Marrs told lawmakers that the licensing requirement should not be repealed for people who are “just money hungry’’ and want to be able to hire people with less training who can be paid less.

Kendall Ong, another salon owner, said trained people can recognize and deal with things like lice and infectious disease. He said allowing unlicensed people to handle hair creates “the possibility of a health crisis.’’

But Anthony Dynar, who owns his own cosmetology salon, said it makes sense to allow him to have a shop with both licensed cosmetologists and unlicensed stylists. Dunare mocked the idea that somehow a person without 1,000 hours of formal training will spread disease.

“It does not take a license to know not to serve a client with lice or open sores,’’ he said.

Ugenti-Rita did not dispute that money is at least part of the issue. “This will increase competition, drive down costs,’’ she said.

Committee members lined up for and against the bill along party lines.

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, suggested the training requirement for something as simple as styling hair seems excessive. He said it requires just 585 hours of training to become a law enforcement officer.

And Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, said a line needs to be drawn as to what is appropriate state regulation and what is not.

“I fail to understand why the state of Arizona should be regulating something that we can each do for ourselves,” he said.

But Rep. Eric Descheenie, D-Tuba City, said total deregulation makes no sense.

“This is a health care issue,’’ he said, with improperly trained people unable to spot and control scabies, lice and even the highly contagious and hard-to-treat MRSA virus. “Some of these things can take people’s lives.’’

To advance, the measure requires approval of the full House.