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Utah cosmetologists push back against Provo senator’s licensing exemption bill



Utah cosmetologists are pushing back against a licensing exemption bill being considered by the Utah State Legislature that they say would hurt the cosmetology industry and pose public health risks.

Senate Bill 87, sponsored by Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, would modify the state Cosmetology and Associated Professions Licensing Act to create a licensure exemption for a cosmetologist who “dries, styles, arranges, dresses, curls, hot irons, shampoos, or conditions hair” but does not cut the hair or apply dye or reactive chemicals.

The bill, which received a favorable recommendation from the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Jan. 20, is supported by libertarian advocacy groups that argue that the licensure requirements are burdensome and non-essential. Many cosmetologists and beauty schools, meanwhile, say Utah’s licensing requirements are necessary to keep the public safe.

“Our biggest concern is public safety,” Christina Thomas, who operates 19 salons in Utah, told the committee. “Sanitation and cleanliness is taught in the schools. And during COVID, I was so thankful that my employees were licensed and they had the education that they had received in school to keep the public safe.”

On Friday, Bramble introduced a substitute version of the bill after “listening to the concerns of the cosmetology industry.”

The substitute bill would require that the unlicensed cosmetologists receive a “hair safety permit” by completing a “hair safety program” approved by the Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing with a score of 75% or greater.

Additionally, blow dry bars and other facilities exempt from licensing would be subject to “the same sanitation standards as a barber shop and a beauty shop,” Bramble told his colleagues.

“So they’d be subject to those same requirements, the same inspections and sanctions and such for sanitation,” the Provo senator said.

The bill passed 21-8 in the Senate on its third reading on Friday and was sent to the House for further consideration.

Sen. Jani Iwamoto, D-Salt Lake City, said she still had issues with the revised bill “because of my constituent emails I have” from cosmetologists in her district opposed to the licensing change.

“I’ve never had so many emails. I think that the salons must be concentrated in my district because I’ve received so many,” Iwamoto said.

“My concern is the fact that we continue to nibble at different licensure around the edges,” said Sen. Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City. “And my feeling is … that when we should address these issues is at the sunset date of these licensure acts.”

Davis added, “To change those licenses midstream, I don’t think that’s probably the way we should be doing it.”

But Democratic Salt Lake City Sen. Luz Escamilla, who said she also had many cosmetologists in her district, said she supported the revised bill because it would require them to get a permit “and it will also be very clear that they are not (licensed) cosmetologists and that they cannot do the other work.”

Sen. Scott Sandall, R-Tremonton, who spoke in favor of the bill, said “licensure in the state of Utah tends to be about public safety.”

“It shouldn’t be about a barrier to entry for a business,” he said.

Despite the revisions to the bill, many Utah cosmetologists still oppose the legislation.

More than 70 individuals are planning on attending a “We are more than hair stylists” protest taking place on Sunday in Salt Lake City, according to the event’s Facebook page.

Gentry Leonard, a cosmetology student at Cameo College of Essential Beauty in Murray, who helped organize the protest, said she wanted to show “that there are a lot more cosmetologists than people think who oppose this.”

“I think it would affect the industry because I think it incentivizes businesses and corporations to underpay their workers and hold the stylists with the work they do, as well as the salon, to a lower standard,” Leonard said in an interview Friday.

While Leonard said she “can definitely see where people are coming from with trying to shorten school” and make the industry more accessible, she added that she felt like it would cheat her as a cosmetologist “with the proper training and licens(ing).”

“I just didn’t really think the amount of education that goes into cosmetology was important until I went to a school,” said Leonard. “So I can definitely see why people are a little put off by school, but I don’t think people realize the amount of work that goes into it: the amount of education, all of our supplies and clients and products are all provided by the school. And that is very needed for students to build a client base for after school.”

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