Recent remarks by Gov. Doug Ducey suggest that cosmetology will be the next step in his push to reduce occupational licensing requirements in Arizona.
During a question-and-answer session at an Arizona Chamber of Commerce luncheon on June 17, Ducey touted a 2017 law that waives licensing fees for low-income individuals and recent legislation that allows people from other states to transfer their occupational licenses when they move to Arizona.
But there’s more work to do when it comes to getting government out of people’s way as they try to enter the workforce, the governor said.
“It still takes I think 1,600 hours to receive a license to work in cosmetology. So you’re talking about basically 40 weeks that you’re asking someone to stay out of the marketplace. That level of investment and going into debt before they can go to work — there’s got to be a better way on this,” Ducey said. “We want to continue to advance the ball, always protecting public health and public safety, but realizing where these regulatory regimes have been built up to stifle competition.”
If Ducey moves to reduce the number of hours it takes to get a cosmetology license or otherwise loosen licensing requirements, it could spark a contentious battle with the industry and legislative Democrats. Last session, they fought tooth-and-nail against a successful push by Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita to allow people to shampoo and blow dry hair in Arizona without a cosmetology license, arguing that untrained stylists could spread diseases or infections. What Ducey hinted at could be significantly more far-reaching.
The various types of cosmetology licenses offered by the state have different requirements. To become a full-fledged cosmetologist, which allows someone to use scissors and chemicals, requires 1,600 hours of education and training, while estheticians and nail technicians need only 600 hours to get licensed.
The Ducey administration declined to elaborate on what steps the governor may seek to take next session on cosmetology licensing.
Ugenti-Rita, R-Scottsdale, said she hasn’t spoken with the governor’s office about any plans to reduce the number of hours it would take to get a cosmetology license. But she was supportive of the idea, saying the hours of training required is excessive.
“He’s exactly right,” she said. “We’ll have to look at the other regulatory burdens that are out there and make sure they’re associated with a justifiable explanation. And if not, they need to be addressed.”
Ugenti-Rita said she has other ideas for how to reform cosmetology regulation next session. She said she’s open to changing the make-up of the state cosmetology board, perhaps by adding new members and requiring the inclusion of more members of the public. The seven-member board currently consists of five people who are part of the cosmetology industry and two members of the public.
One industry group, however, was skeptical about what Ducey might have in store. Todd Clodfelter, executive director of the Arizona Cosmetology Association, warned against deregulation that doesn’t take consumer protection and public health into account. For example, he said diseases and parasites can be spread by unsanitary practices by cosmetologists.
“I’m just concerned sometimes with the concept of lowering requirements for the sake of lowering requirements,” Clodfelter said.
Clodfelter, a former Republican legislator from Tucson, said he hopes the governor will sit down with industry professionals and stakeholders before making any proposals.
Any push to loosen regulations for cosmetologists is likely to spark another fight with legislative Democrats, who vociferously opposed Ugenti-Rita’s blow dry bill.
Democratic Rep. Randall Friese, a Tucson doctor, said the state should be careful when dealing with services that have health-related risks. That doesn’t mean he’s not willing to consider a reduction in the number of hours required to get a cosmetology license, if it made sense. But Friese said he’d want to know the rationale and wouldn’t reduce any training requirements geared toward public health and safety.
“I’d have to look at his proposal. But whenever you’re performing a service for a person, applying products to that person, there are always safety concerns. And one of the roles of government is to make sure we’re looking at consumer safety, product safety,” Friese said.
The governor has made occupational licensing reform a major plank of his agenda. Last session he signed the blow dry bill and pushed legislation recognizing out-of-state licenses for most professions, which he hailed as the first such law in the United States. In 2017, he championed legislation eliminating licensing fees for people who earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, which has been overwhelmingly used by people going into the nursing profession.
Ducey has a history when it comes to cosmetology standards. In his 2018 State of the State address, he called the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology “bullies” over a dispute with a Tucson man who was providing free haircuts to homeless people.