Cornyn plans bill aimed at reining in licensing rules


Gordon Logan, founder and chief executive of the Sport Clips hair salon chain, has a quick test for anyone who thinks the myriad nationwide regulations governing occupational licenses make sense.

“I ask them to tell me, are there more world-class hairstylists in New York or Des Moines?” Logan said.

Those who pick New York are generally surprised to discover that Iowa mandates a minimum of 2,000 hours of training for budding cosmetologists, he said, compared with 1,000 in New York. Texas requires 1,500.

Logan, who started Sport Clips in Austin in 1993 and now operates in all 50 states with more than 1,600 locations, was among the local business leaders who met with U.S. Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, on Monday. They were calling on government leaders to streamline the requirements for occupational licenses for hairstylists, movers, auctioneers, plumbers and others. Logan hosted the event at a Sport Clips shop in North Austin.

Cornyn is planning to introduce a bill in the U.S. Senate that would allow state governors to use existing federal job-training funds for “the identification, consolidation, or elimination of unnecessarily burdensome licenses and certifications” that bar aspiring workers without benefiting consumer safety.

Under the proposal, Texas would be able to use about $9 million of its federal job-training money on the effort, a Cornyn aide said.

Cornyn cited statistics showing that more than a quarter of U.S. workers now need licenses to do their jobs, up from less than 5 percent in the early 1950s. Texas is the 17th “most burdensome” state in the country in terms of occupational licensing requirements, according to the Institute for Justice, a Libertarian group.

While Cornyn’s bill wouldn’t mandate changes to licensing requirements or direct that they be uniform among states, he said Monday that he hopes it will bring “greater recognition to the problem” and provide extra tools for state leaders trying to tackle it.

Excessive licensing requirements have become “obstacles that get in the way of people who want to work” and of employers who can’t find enough certified applicants, Cornyn said. In some cases, he said, over-the-top hoops that aspiring workers must jump through to enter certain professions have been prompted by “those who don’t want any more competition” rather than by consumer safety concerns.

Cornyn’s bill has bipartisan support, with U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., planning to co-sponsor it.

Former President Barack Obama also viewed excessive licensing requirements as a growing problem for aspiring workers. Last summer, his administration made grants available through the Labor Department to study “approaches that enhance the portability of licenses across states and reduce overly burdensome licensing restrictions in general.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is a supporter of the broad effort as well. Abbott cited excessive licensing requirements during his successful gubernatorial campaign in 2014, and in 2015 he signed a bill into law that eliminated regulations on hair braiding in Texas. State law previously had mandated that hair braiders meet the same training requirements as cosmetologists.

Abbott “wants to reduce the barriers where it makes sense” and where public safety isn’t compromised, said Jerry Strickland, executive director of state-federal relations in Abbott’s office. Strickland, who said that Abbott also has worked to reduce fees for various occupational licenses in the state, attended Monday’s event and voiced support for Cornyn’s proposal.

A number of bills in the current Texas legislative session would reduce professional licensing requirements, including a couple that would lower the amount of required training for aspiring cosmetologists to 1,000 hours.

Logan, who backs those bills, said the extra training is unnecessary because there’s no discernible difference in skills between those who complete 1,000 hours of training and those who complete 1,500 hours. He also said the extra requirement is a financial waste to students, because his company pays the same regardless nationwide.

“There’s really no benefit to the students from going that extra time” in cosmetology school, Logan said.



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