The November 20 hearing over Ohio House Bill 399 displayed the friction between representatives of the bill and those affected by it in the cosmetology and barbering industries.
The bill seeks to change the requirements for licensure in cosmetology and barbering, significantly reducing the hours and experience required of students seeking a license. According to the wording of the legislation, the purpose is to “specify conditions an applicant must satisfy for the board to issue the applicant an instructor or barber instructor license.” This includes establishing an apprenticeship program for students studying cosmetology or barbering.
Rep. Jena Powell (R-Arcanum) argues that quicker schooling, which will cut out “unnecessary” regulations, will serve as a step in her plan to make Ohio more business-friendly, especially for workers from out of state. The bill also includes requirements for a national, standardized examination for cosmetologists and barbers.
Others, however, aren’t so sure the changes are for the better. While the Ohio license will still transfer fairly easily to surrounding states, Ohio workers could be at a disadvantage competitively. Licensed cosmetologists will no longer possess all of the same skills as those with the same license in other states unless they take an optional advanced course with 300 additional hours. This course, offering skills such as nail technology, will require more funding and more time for students to meet the level of professionalism in other states.
There are adamant protests against the bill both from many involved in the industry as well as those who advocate for them. The room “was packed with standing room only” at the first hearing over the bill, with “at least 70 women and minorities” present in opposition to it.
The petition Protect My Profession is collecting signatures against the bill and submitting a letter to lawmakers. This letter argues that the bill is unsafe, resulting in less experience and expertise for those professionals embarking on a career in the beauty industry.
It also cites harm to small businesses, which do not have the capacity and infrastructure of large salons to “engage in on-the-job training.” This means that apprentices will turn to large salons because of the job security present there, rather than helping small businesses continue to succeed and maintain a workforce.
Additionally, the letter maintains that Bill 399 will bring harm to women-owned businesses, since 61% of salons and spas are owned by women, 98% of which are single-unit establishments. If small businesses face a threat due to the bill, so do women-owned businesses.
The bill was referred to the committee on November 12 and the first hearing was held November 20. The date for the second hearing is yet to be scheduled, but it’s certain that there will be a packed house in protest once again.
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Allegra Thatcher is a reporter at The Ohio Star.