On the face of it, Louisiana is in a ridiculous legal position: The state requires hundreds of hours of training and an expensive license for hair braiders.
If ever there were a case made for the libertarian crusaders of the Institute for Justice, this is it.
The law firm and three hair braiders have challenged in 19th Judicial District Court in Baton Rouge the clearly oppressive rules of the state Board of Cosmetology.
We say oppressive because no other neighboring state has such rules. “What is safe across the border does not suddenly become dangerous in Louisiana,” the IJ contends. There are only a handful of licensed hair braiders in Louisiana, and hundreds in Texas and Mississippi.
Like eyebrow threading, natural hair braiding doesn’t require chemicals or anything else that constitutes a health hazard that government can use to justify interfering with private enterprise.
In Texas, an eyebrow-threading regulation was struck down by courts in 2015.
How can the state possibly defend its hair braider regulations? Well, maybe on the legal grounds that the Legislature has given regulatory authority to the board, and they’ve used it, however unwisely.
Whatever the outcome of the IJ case, and the nonprofit law firm has won some and lost some in Louisiana, it should be another instance in which the Legislature ought to be called upon to justify its many and often oppressive regulations and licenses imposed on entrepreneurs.
Often, the root of this evil is money. Licenses fund jobs in government on boards that regulate businesses; legislators are reluctant to upset insider deals.
The Pelican Institute for Public Policy has advocated for loosening these restraints on trade, but it’s more politically difficult than one might think. “While the recently concluded session saw some progress made toward reforming Louisiana’s burdensome occupational licensing laws, the usual entrenched status quo attempted to obstruct reforms at every turn,” Pelican President Daniel Erspamer reports.
A sign of progress: Erspamer cites House Bill 431 by state Rep. Katrina Jackson, D-Monroe, that will help formerly incarcerated individuals trained in hospice care to secure licenses to work. It passed and was signed into law by the governor, despite some opposition along the way.
In earlier years, an effort to change the system of florists’ licensing — florists! — resulted in a typical Louisiana compromise. The state board kept the fee but the oppressive test requirements were loosened.
This is not much in the way of progress.
The IJ lawsuit on hair braiding, if nothing else, draws attention to the system that is anti-competitive and unreasonable.