While members of the Idaho House of Representatives have greenlighted a bill that would require a government permission slip in order to earn money for sign language services (that is not a joke; it’s House Bill 46), another proposal would, for the first time in years, provide meaningful relief to people who have been denied work because of Idaho’s regulation of occupations.

House Bill 139, whose first hearing is scheduled for Tuesday, would deregulate components of the cosmetology profession in the state. The original purpose behind the legislation was far more innocuous. State occupational licensure officials simply wanted to combine regulatory boards, in this case, the Board of Cosmetology and the Board of Barber Examiners. (The latter is charged with enforcing regulations so anachronistic, like the one governing barber poles, the House Clerk had to stifle a laugh while reading the legislation aloud last week.)

Among other things, HB 139 would reduce the number of training hours necessary to enter the profession, now as many as 2,000 — which is more than is required to become an EMT in Idaho. Further, the bill would also remove equally absurd barriers to work that have cost people their livelihoods in recent months. For example, the Board of Cosmetology is reported to have regulated a mall kiosk out of business because its employees had the temerity to demonstrate the use and effectiveness of its hair curlers for prospective buyers. The employees didn’t have a cosmetology license, so the state shut them down. This legislation would exempt such businesses from similar counterproductive regulations.

The measure also provides relief to barber and cosmetology licensees who are in good standing with the state but, for whatever reason, they forget to renew their license on time. In southcentral Idaho, a licensee, found to be following all other state regulations, forgot to renew a license by the deadline and, as a result, lost their business.

My favorite portion of the bill exempts from licensure people who perform event styling. Last year, the state of Idaho shut down the successful event styling business of three Idaho women who provided their highly-sought hair and makeup expertise to brides on their wedding day, pageant and fitness show contestants and photoshoot subjects. These women, whom I wrote about last month, define what it is to be an entrepreneur, yet the state stopped them from doing the work they’re trained to do. This bill would allow them to get their business back.

Yes, HB 139 still hyper-regulates many aspects of the cosmetology and barber professions. Though the barrier to entry has been reduced, it still takes far too many hours to win the state’s blessing to work, and it remains questionable whether the state should continue to license these occupations at all. The bill would still regulate what a barber pole is (“’Barber pole’ means a red and white striped vertical cylinder with a ball located on top of the cylinder or any object of a similar nature, regardless of its actual shape or coloring, that would create or tend to create the impression to members of the general public that a business located near the object is a barbershop,” says the bill, borrowing from current law.) But in many respects, the bill’s loosening of the stringent regulations on professionals in Idaho is a welcome departure from the status quo.

Ultimately, more meaningful than the combining of regulatory boards, if passed and signed into law, the legislation would put Idahoans back to work, Idahoans who had been denied the ability to earn a living by their own state government. The fact that many lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, liberals, moderates and conservatives,  are working together to advance legislation in the interest of economic opportunity and prosperity is a thing of beauty for a profession that’s all about beauty.

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