by Jenna Bentley

National outrage is growing over unnecessary and burdensome occupational licenses that do nothing to protect public health and safety but instead outlaw competition and hurt employment opportunities. Take blow dry salons: The popularity of these salons is increasing, as is the need to find blow dry stylists. Most licensed cosmetologists want to practice their full license—cutting, dyeing, and perming, while workers in blow dry salons only wash, dry, and style the hair with common tools such as blow dryers and curling irons. For many prospective employees, it becomes hard to justify working as a blow dry stylist after investing the significant time and expense to get a full cosmetology license. But one reform proposal that has been gaining traction in states across the country would remove the onerous requirement that people who only wash and style hair must get that full license.

Virginia recently enacted House Bill 790, which “exempts persons working in a barbershop or cosmetology salon whose duties are confined to blow drying, cleansing, and styling hair from being required to obtain an occupational license.” The bill had strong bipartisan support, passing both the House and Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by the Governor. Now, California is looking to do the same with Senate Bill 999, sponsored by Senator Mike Morrell (R) and supported by the R Street Institute. The bill exempts the practices of shampooing, arranging, curling, dressing, and waving hair—the types of things people do in their own homes everyday—from the California Board of Cosmetology licensing requirements. In a state which is ranked in the top 10 for the most burdensome occupational licensing requirements (Arizona ranked 5th, while California ranked 7th), the possibility of reducing some of those barriers to entry have gained bipartisan support. The bill passed the California Senate 33-2.

However, SB 999 is not without controversy. California’s cosmetology industry has railed against the bill, seeking to keep out any competition. As the bill’s sponsor explained, “thanks to the influence of industry lobbyists and powerful boards that have monopolized their respective industries via licensing requirements, attempts to reform ridiculous license requirements continue to fail.” This industry’s anti-competitive strong-hold is not unique to California: Similar opposition quashed a Goldwater Institute-backed Arizona reform bill during the 2018 legislative session.

SB 999 is a terrific start in California’s effort to roll back unduly burdensome occupational licenses. Entrepreneurs who pose no health or safety risk to the public should be free to focus on serving their clients rather than navigating a needless labyrinth of red tape.

Jenna Bentley is the external affairs director at the Goldwater Institute.