As our readers might remember, last year there was a rather high-profile fight in the Louisiana legislature over a bill by Rep. Julie Emerson (R-Carencro) which would de-regulate the profession of hair braiding, which currently carries a lengthy list of regulatory barriers to entry of the field and as such has been mostly forced underground. The demand for hair braiding occurs mostly in the black community, and both the customers and the practitioners tend toward the bottom end of the economic totem pole.
That matters, for two reasons. First, because we’re mostly talking about people of disadvantaged economic status, it starts to become an imperative that the state not stand in the way of their advancement through work. And second, people of disadvantaged economic status are going to do what they’ve got to do to eat and to live, so if the law requires onerous regulatory steps to practice a particular trade they’re simply going to ignore the law and operate in the cash economy. If that makes them criminals, so be it.
Emerson’s bill, which passed the House last year and then died in the Senate, was an interesting test case for occupational licensing reform – in that it showed the Louisiana legislature is too full of control freaks and economic illiterates to create the types of reform measures that would unlock the state’s economic potential and put people to work. But after the bill failed, Gov. John Bel Edwards included statements about occupational licensing reform – deregulating florists was his chief point along those lines – in his message to the legislature in advance of this year’s legislative sessions.
So Emerson’s back with another hair-braiding bill amid a raft of other legislation aimed at occupational licensing reforms. Most of them appear to be moving – the hair-braiding bill goes up for a vote on the House floor this afternoon.
But last week in the Senate, Sen. Regina Barrow brought a hair braiding bill of her own which would have actually increased the regulatory requirements to become a hair braider – something which would indicate she’s a little slow on the uptake given Edwards’ statements about which direction the law should be moving. It seems Barrow had her hair braided last year and wasn’t satisfied with the results, so now she wanted to legislate on the matter.
The bill failed, amid a committee hearing which was more or less a mess and an indication that the state cosmetology board, and at least some of the people involved in it in particular, are running a complete racket – and one wonders why we as a state are investing our tax dollars in a rather flagrant restraint-of-trade enterprise without any particular showing of positive results from it. After all, Barrow herself can testify that a hair-braiding license doesn’t guarantee good results, so what’s the point of requiring 1,000 hours of training at a cost of more than $11,000 at some school for a practice which is completely optional for the consumer?
Below is a video from our buddy Robert Burns of Sound Off Louisiana!, who covered the Senate committee hearing and in fact participated in it – you’ll see Burns dismantle Barrow and the proponents of her bill in a devastating fashion. It goes 16 minutes, but it’s worth watching for no other reason than to see the level of stupidity and incompetence we’re paying for with respect to the legislature and the state’s regulatory bodies. If you get through that 16 minutes and you’re not for wholesale, baby-with-the-bathwater reform of the state’s regulatory schemes on everything short of life-or-death practices, then you’re probably part of the problem.