Big news for braiding entrepreneurs in New Jersey: Legislation that would exempt hair braiders from the state’s current licensing requirements has received legislative approval and will now be submitted to the governor.
The bill, sponsored by Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Shanique Speight (D-Essex), would not only remove the stringent and expensive licensing regulations currently required of general cosmetologists, but would create a new regulatory entity to oversee practitioners comprised of a six-member “Hair Braiding Establishment Advisory Committee” within the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety under the current New Jersey State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling. Said Speight via press release:
We should be encouraging entrepreneurship, not bogging it down with senseless bureaucracy. Why are we asking hair braiders to spend time and money on unrelated training for a skill they’ve already mastered? Creating an advisory committee to oversee these establishments will help protect consumers without placing unnecessary burdens on owners.
The bill would add New Jersey to a growing list of states that no longer require braiders to be licensed. This is in contrast to the practices of states such as Tennessee, where some braiders have been fined nearly $100,000 for practicing without a cosmetology license. Despite an Institute for Justice study indicating that braiding poses little to none of the same risks as barbering, manicuring or providing skin care, according to New Jersey’s Cosmetology and Hairstyling Act of 1984, braiding is included in a broad list of “services encompassed within the definition of cosmetology and hairstyling.”
The new bill will amend and supplement the act, providing registration and regulation of owners of hair-braiding establishments through a governor-appointed committee of New Jersey residents consisting of three members who own or operate a hair-braiding establishment in the state, two members who hold practicing licenses issued by the board and one public member.
According to the state’s announcement, McKnight & Speight’s bill (A-3754) defines hair braiding as:
[T}he twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking or braiding of hair by hand or with mechanical devices. “Hair braiding” may include the use of: natural or synthetic hair extensions or fibers, decorative beads, and other hair accessories; minor trimming of natural hair or hair extensions incidental to twisting, wrapping, weaving, extending, locking, or braiding hair; making of wigs from natural hair, natural or synthetic fibers, and hair extensions; and the use of topical agents in conjunction with performing hair braiding, including conditioners, gels, moisturizers, oils, pomades, and shampoos.
This bill was approved 74-0 by the New Jersey Assembly on June 7 and 34-0 by the Senate on July 1. Notably, one of the provisions of the new bill would be that all fees, fines or penalties imposed upon professional braiders prior to the effective date of the bill would be waived.
Obviously, the new legislation would be a huge boon for the hair-braiding community, which, as McKnight notes, is largely comprised of black women:
Hair braiders are predominantly African-American and African immigrant women. This is a skill that is often learned at an early age and passed down from one generation to the next. ... Asking hair braiders to spend time and money on training that doesn’t relate to their craft so they can do it professionally is unnecessarily burdensome and only helps to keep talented people out of work.