It was all good about two months ago for New Jersey braiders after legislators approved a bill making it legal to braid natural hair without licensing.
Gov. Phil Murphy, however, vetoed the bill on Monday which had received bipartisan approval from both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate.
That means braiders can still be arrested for braiding hair unless they are licensed cosmetologists — which requires at least 1,200 hours of training, can cost upwards of $17,000 in tuition, and teaches little to nothing about actual braiding.
In a 25-page veto letter, Gov. Murphy acknowledged the current licensing requirements as excessive; however, he suggested a different option requiring braiders complete 40-50 hours of training.
In the letter, he wrote:
“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.
Under the governor’s new proposal, braiders would also be required to be licensed for at least three years before running their own shops.
The Institute for Justice, which has helped braiders in 14 different states reduce or remove licensing requirements, said the new proposal is still harsh. In a press statement, they said the changes would force braiders with existing shops to shut down their shops or partner with licensed cosmetologists.
“By vetoing this bill, the governor is stifling upward mobility for hundreds of immigrants and women of color,” said Brooke Fallon, assistant director of activism at the Institute for Justice. “Over 100 braiders have spoken out against New Jersey’s licensing law at community events, town halls, and rallies, even if making their voices heard could open themselves up to prosecution. We are determined to keep fighting for their right to economic liberty and are calling on the Legislature to override the governor’s veto. Braiders deserve much better.”
Braiding and licensing continues to be a hot button topic, with 25 states already moving to reduce or remove restrictions. However, it does not look like New Jersey will become the 26th state anytime soon. There is no word yet, on when or if a new bill will be submitted. Until then, braiders in the state are back at square one in the debate.