Politics

Kine Gueye runs an informal hair braiding business out of her house.

Gueye, who came to Louisville 17 years ago, says she wants to legitimize her business. But current state law makes that impossible for her.

“Sometimes you braid a lady’s hair, after you finish they say ‘I don’t like it, I’m not going to pay you.’ You cannot call the police, you’re scared,” she said. “We want to get out, open shop, pay taxes. It’s very important because we’re United States citizens.”

Gueye and hair braiders in situations like hers won’t have to apply for a cosmetology license or take thousands of hours in coursework under a bill approved by a state Senate committee on Tuesday.

Kentucky law requires those who do “African-style” hair braiding and other forms of “natural” hair braiding to take about 1,800 hours in cosmetology classes and participate in a six-month apprenticeship to obtain a license.

Supporters of the legislation say current law keeps would-be entrepreneurs “in the shadows.”

Sen. Perry Clark, a Louisville Democrat and a sponsor of the bill, said recent immigrants have a particularly strong economic interest in hair braiding.

“This is the first entry into capitalism for lots of people, and we need to remove this burden,” Clark said.

Christina Walsch of the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice said those regulations are unnecessary.

“Kentucky should not require a license for something as safe and simple as braiding,” she said.

Fifteen states don’t require hair braiders to be licensed.

The committee approved the bill unanimously, and it was placed on the consent calendar, meaning it will join a host of other bills that will likely pass the full Senate without debate.

Louisville Republican Sen. Dan Seum voted in favor of the bill.

“The fact that somebody just wants to do their craft, that we would have this government hanging over them … I’m not sure that anybody in this country is legal anymore,” he said, suggesting government is over-regulating industry and individuals.

Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.