Hair braiding in Nebraska will no longer require a cosmetology license, if Gov. Pete Ricketts signs a bill passed by the state legislature last week.

The state requires 490 days of schooling to become a licensed cosmetologist. Students have to learn how to apply makeup, style and color hair and must pass a licensing exam to become a licensed cosmetologist.

Hair-braiding is barely taught in most cosmetology schools, but anyone wanting to make a few dollars by braiding hair – a practice most common in African-American communities, where traditional hair-braiding has been taught for centuries – has to go through the cosmetology licensing process.

Those 2,100 hours of training can cost as much as $20,000 in tuition and fees. Getting licensed also requires a high school diploma or GED, as if passing algebra was essential to understanding how to braid hair.

“To put it simply, this is ridiculous,” said Jessica Herrmann, director of legislative outreach for the Platte Institute of Economic Research. “Hair braiders must not only obtain permission from the government, but also spend thousands of dollars on course instruction on coloring, men and women’s cutting, waxing, home creative skills, skin and spa services and chemistry. This burdensome regulation creates a huge financial barrier to entry for this new class of entrepreneurs.”

But skipping that lengthy and expensive process means facing the potential penalties for being an unlicensed cosmetologist. Those include fines of up to $25,000 and the potential of four years in prison.

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