Politics & Government

Texas lawmakers address hairy issues

Isis Brantley of Dallas is a hair braider who argued in the Texas Legislature to end state licensing requirements for her profession
Isis Brantley of Dallas is a hair braider who argued in the Texas Legislature to end state licensing requirements for her profession www.forbes.com

State lawmakers have some hairy issues on their hands.

And if Rep. Craig Goldman has his way, the Legislature will comb through them — and cut them out.

The Fort Worth Republican has a handful of outdated and irrelevant laws he has proposed eliminating, hoping to loosen “onerous and unnecessary” restrictions on some Texans’ jobs.

His proposals include: abolishing shampoo apprentice permits, deregulating hair braiding, even eliminating licenses for weaving hair or servicing wigs.

“The whole point is to remove bad legislation and get it off the books,” said Goldman, who began looking at outdated laws once he was assigned to the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee. “I want to get useless laws off the books.”

Goldman said he worked with Gov. Greg Abbott’s office after being named to the committee because employees there were also reviewing aging laws that could be removed from the statutes.

His proposal to eliminate licenses to braid hair has gone the farthest so far, passing the House as a similar measure by Sens. Royce West, Kevin Eltife and Konni Burton is ready for consideration by the Senate.

Goldman could find a mixed reaction from some Texans as he moves forward with eliminating some requirements, said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

“Texas has hundreds of agencies, boards and commissions that regulate … every profession, every line of work,” he said. “Their role is to defend their profession with licensing requirements. If you limit people in that line of economic activity, the price goes up.

“But [Goldman] is proposing to tear out some of the licensure requirements … in some trades that don’t seem to require it.”

Hair braiding

The hair braiding deregulation, championed by well-known African hair braider Isis Brantley of Dallas, is moving fastest.

The proposal, House Bill 2717, would eliminate licenses and certificates now required for hair braiding. Senate Bill 1193 is ready for consideration in the Senate.

It also would require the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation — which oversees the licensing of dozens of trades ranging from auctioneers and cosmetologists to elevator and escalator safety and polygraph examiners — to refund fees paid by Texans who have hair braiding specialty certificates, instructor licenses and specialty shop licenses.

“I need the government to get out of the way so that I can teach the next generation of hair braiders and earn an honest living,” Brantley told a House committee earlier this session.

Brantley has helped change state law in Texas, to gain more flexibility for hair braiders, and she sued the state when regulations would require her to spend thousands of dollars for training and establishing a setting similar to a barber college — with 10 sinks and reclining chairs — in order to teach her craft.

Earlier this year, a federal judge ruled on her side, saying the state’s requirements were unconstitutional.

And the state has signed off as well.

“The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations recommended to the Texas Legislature the deregulation of hair braiding,” said William H. Kuntz Jr., the agency’s executive director.

Goldman’s proposal would do away with red tape binding hair braiders once and for all.

“[It] eliminates burdensome regulations in an effort to grant small businesses the economic freedoms necessary to prosper in the free market,” Goldman said. “The state should be in the business of encouraging entrepreneurship, not stifling it.

“Our government has become consumed with the need to regulate the free market in order to better protect the consumer; however, burdensome regulation does nothing more than harm small business owners like Isis Brantley."

Critics have said eliminating these permits will eliminate revenue to the state. In the case of hair braiding and related fees, the state would have a two-year negative impact to the state of about $123,000, according to a fiscal note prepared by the Legislative Budget Board that was attached to the bill.

Other hairy proposals

A look at some of Goldman’s other bills geared to assist other industries:

Shampooers: HB2720 would abolish permits needed for shampoo apprentices. This means anyone who shampoos or conditions a person’s hair would no longer need a permit or license. This measure has been referred to a committee but has not had a hearing.

Other hair work: HB2846 would eliminate licenses and certificates for certain specialties such as weaving a person’s hair, working on a person’s wig or hairpiece, braiding extensions and attaching hair only by braiding and without chemicals. This measure has been referred to a committee but has not had a hearing.

“I hope to get these bills passed and remove these laws,” Goldman said.

But this isn’t the end of his work, he said. He will keep working after the session to find other laws that need to be removed.

“My goal will be to continue to get useless laws off the books,” he said.

Anna Tinsley, 817-390-7610

Twitter: @annatinsley