In New Jersey if you want to practice hair braiding you need to complete a 1,200 hour cosmetology course where you learn lots of things – except for how to braid hair. The practice of hair braiding requires no chemicals and is perfectly safe. Last year, a mother of four was fined $1,200 for braiding hair without a license. Anita Yeboah can’t afford the up to $17,000 to obtain this license. She faced the prospect of either going on welfare, or starting a business to support her and her four children. As an immigrant from Ghana, she grew up learning to braid hair as part of her culture.

Brigitte Nzali was slapped with a fine for braiding hair from her shop in Blackwood, NJ. She and other hair braiders have joined forces to form the Hair Braiding Freedom Coalition. They have worked to get a bill through the Assembly that would get rid of burdensome licensing requirements.

On August 27th, Governor Phil Murphy heartlessly vetoed their bill. The bill had bi-partisan support in the legislature, but Murphy thought it went too far and wanted hair braiders to have at least 50 hours of training or three years of experience.

Senators Christopher Bateman and Brian Stack along with Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle and Angelica Jimenez want to create a licensing scheme for pet groomers with little evidence that such a scheme will improve pet safety. S-2514 and A-3044 have been release out of committee and are heading to the Senate and the Assembly for approval. This will make NJ the first state in the nation to require license for pet groomers.

The State Department of Labor and Workforce Development lists 209 occupations that require licensing. Of note that “hair braider” is not on the list. Instead the regulators expand the list to include hair braiding as a subcategory of “Cosmetologist-Hairstylist”. Many other occupations that pose little or no danger to the consumer require licensing. These include interior designers, librarians, locksmiths, jockeys, accountants, career consultants, horse groomers, and many others.

Occupational licensing is most often supported by lobbyists working for the industries being “regulated” because such requirements restrict competition. The restriction of competition most often results in lower quality, higher prices, and a barrier to employment.

Consumers would be better served if instead of government licensing we allow professionals to opt into voluntary private certification to demonstrate their competence. Consumers can utilize private consumer agencies and online internet rating systems to determine the reputation of a professional.