Looks like it’s one step forward, one step back for New Jersey braid practitioners, as legislation introduced to abolish the current licensing requirements for braiders was conditionally vetoed by Gov. Phil Murphy, with suggestions for revisions before he’d reconsider.
As The Glow Up reported in July, New Jersey Assemblywomen Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) and Shanique Speight (D-Essex) sponsored a bill to remove the requirement that braiders possess a cosmetology license—an educational expense that requires 1,200 hours of training at a cost of up to $17,000—replacing it with a new regulatory entity to oversee practitioners via a six-member “Hair Braiding Establishment Advisory Committee” within the state’s Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety.
Despite bipartisan approval by both the New Jersey Assembly and the Senate, Gov. Murphy pushed back against immediate approval of the bill. While he conceded that cosmetology licensing requirements are excessive and inappropriate for the skills braiders require, he instead recommended braiders undergo 40-50 hours of training before being allowed to legally practice within the state. Via his veto statement (PDF):
I commend the Legislature for taking steps to expand economic opportunities for African-American women, immigrants from African and Caribbean countries, and others, by easing potentially burdensome licensing requirements that may prevent many from engaging in the practice of hair braiding. ... As a consequence of the expense and expansiveness of this training, many hair braiders opt not to seek licensure. Those who operate without a license are exposed to legal risk, and those who could otherwise be productively employed as hair braiders who choose not to operate forego a readily available source of income for themselves and their families. In order to create a stronger and fairer New Jersey, it is important to remove or reduce barriers to economic opportunity. At the same time, it is important to balance opening economic opportunity with maintaining consumer protections. Just as those who provide hair braiding services are primarily African-American women and African- and Caribbean-immigrant women, the primary consumers who utilize hair braiding services are African-American women and African- and Caribbean-immigrant women. I want to ensure that, by rolling back regulatory requirements for hair braiders, we do not expose those who use hair braiding services to harm.
Assemblywoman Speight told local media on Monday that she is in agreement with the governor’s recommended amendments to the bill she co-sponsored.
“I wasn’t upset at all,” she told New Jersey Advance Media. “I totally understand that there are some things that need to be changed on it.”
No word on when the bill will be amended and resubmitted for the governor’s approval, but the bill could set a much-needed precedence for the many other states that have been struggling with how to classify and legalize braiders. Until new requirements are passed in New Jersey, braiding without a cosmetology license will remain an arrestable offense.