By Donna King
Having trouble getting a hair appointment or other services? There are three bills sitting in the Senate Rules Committee that sponsors say would loosen bureaucratic red tape for some small service businesses. Bill sponsors are eager to see them move before lawmakers adjourn for the year.
One bill would shorten the licensure process to teach cosmetic arts, like hairstyling. Right now cosmetology schools, like Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design in Greenville, say they just can’t get enough teachers to meet student demand because of state-regulated student/teacher ratios and current state rules requiring potential cosmetology instructors to work for five years or take a long course to become an instructor.
House Bill 718 would shorten the work experience needed to teach by allowing instructors to take the state teaching exam after one year of experience, rather than requiring that they take the 800-hour instructor course or have five years of experience. The bill is sponsored by Rep. Kandie Smith, D-Pitt, and it passed the House unanimously back in May.
“Many practitioners would make excellent teachers but are unlikely to leave their good-paying jobs to enroll in an instructor program,” said Paul Naoum, co-founder of Alexander Paul Institute of Hair Design. “Their only other option is to work full-time for years before being eligible to take the teacher exam.”
H.B. 718 would apply to instructors of cosmetologists, estheticians, natural hair care specialists, or manicurists. It would reduce the time required to instruct, with Smith arguing that it would mean more instructors and more working graduates.
Another measure waiting for action in the Senate Rules Committee would allow mental health counselors to work across state lines. Aimed at increasing public access to professional counseling services, House Bill 791, Licensed Counselors Interstate Compact, passed the N.C. House unanimously in July. It would enter North Carolina into an agreement with member states allowing a counselor’s license from one state to be accepted in the others.
The interstate compact took on renewed importance with the growth of remote counseling services during COVID shutdowns. Currently, Georgia and Maryland are in the compact with legislation pending in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Nebraska. However, the compact doesn’t take effect until 10 states agree to join it.
The Licensed Professional Counselors Association of North Carolina is supporting the bill. “It will also support spouses of relocating military members, allow a remote state to hold a provider of services accountable to that state’s practice standards, and facilitate the use of telehealth technology,” the group said in a letter of support.
H.B. 791 has a bipartisan group of primary sponsors — Rep. Diane Wheatley, R-Cumberland; Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland; Rep. Grier Martin, D-Wake; and Rep. Gale Adcock, D-Wake.
A short but powerful measure, House Bill 361, APA Rules Review Definitions, is just a paragraph but would prevent any agency from enforcing one of its own rules without first ensuring that it complies with the Administrative Procedures Act. State agencies could enforce only rules that pass through the state legislature, directives from the federal government, or a rule that “describes the procedure or practice requirements of an agency.” The bill passed the House, 109-3, with just three Democrats voting against it.
“These three bills represent the impact overreaching and inconsistent regulations can have on people’s lives and livelihood,” said Becki Gray, senior vice president of government affairs for the John Locke Foundation. “With all the good work and bipartisan co-operation we’ve seen with the budget last week, I hope the General Assembly will continue their good work and pass these noncontroversial, common-sense bills before they wrap up their work for the year.”
The Senate Rules Committee is scheduled to resume meetings the week after Thanksgiving,