A committee of the Idaho Legislature heard testimony on a proposed change to existing state law that would make it legal for a person to cut a relative’s hair in the relative’s home. Under current Idaho law, such activity is illegal.
“Presently a person is able to practice upon their relatives in the person’s home as long as they don’t charge compensation,” explained Roger Hales, the administrative attorney for the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses. Hales presented his proposed change to the House Business Committee, explaining that the location of the haircut could make the difference between legal and illegal activity.
“If, for example, a grandmother can’t leave her home, or is in a rest home, then there’s no way for one of her relatives to help her with her hair, basically,” Hales said. He recommended to the committee that a person practicing cosmetology on a relative in a relative’s home be given an exemption from the licensure requirements. “This actually happened out there, and it was brought to our attention by the constituent and the constituent’s legislator,” he told the committee.
Referencing the text of the proposal, Rep. Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston, asked “is there a definition of ‘home’ anywhere?”
“There is not,” Hales replied.
Stevenson continued, “So am I to understand that if, all these years when all of us cut our children’s hair and so on, and it may not have been in our home but theirs, then we’ve been out of compliance with law?”
“Well, maybe you put your finger on it,” Hales responded. “I mean, I’m not sure that people are overly concerned with cutting their children’s hair, and if they do it in their own home, there’s a clear exemption for that. But this is a typical approach to the regulation of a profession. You make certain things required, but then you start exempting things out from that. And that’s pretty typical, and these exemptions have been in place for a long time and I think have served the profession well, and we’re simply looking to add another exemption.”
That prompted Rep. Brent Crane, R-Nampa, to comment on the legality of cutting hair in a college dorm room. “I was talking with someone last week who used to cut hair in a dorm situation in college, as a way to offset some of the college costs. So that individual was in violation of state law for cutting other guys’ hair in the dorm?”
“Based on the way you’ve described that, probably,” Hales said.
“So if my wife chooses to go over to her grandma’s house and cut her grandma’s hair, she would be in violation of the law, is that correct?” Crane asked again.
“Yes, under the present law,” Hales answered.
“So why does a licensed cosmetologist or hairstylist have to practice in a licensed shop?” Crane continued. “Why are we licensing the cosmetologist and the location at which they can practice instead of saying ‘you’re licensed in the state of Idaho, you can practice anywhere you want in the state of Idaho?’”
Hales said lawmakers enacted such a law for sanitary considerations. “There are certain types of professions where the legislators felt it was important that they practice in a place that has certain sanitary requirements. The shop requirements have always been in place in this profession, and those shops are licensed, and the license is designed primarily to verify that the shop is going to be sanitary.”
That moved Rep. Jason Monks, R-Meridian, to ask Hales just where the public sanitation concerns begin and end: “We’re not setting sanitary standards in a home, so what is the difference if it’s a home or a hotel or a third party home?”
Hales: “I guess the perception is that one is going to maintain their house. Granted, we’re not trying to regulate that house and I understand your point. But maybe the concern out there is that you would be cutting somebody’s hair in a back alley. I don’t know. But the point being is that in the circumstance that we’re trying to resolve, it was the relative in the relative’s home.”
House Minority Leader John Rusche, D-Lewiston, asked the committee members “are we not delving so much in the substance of the bill that we are neglecting our duty to assure that the bill and the statement of purpose are adequate for the purpose of consideration once we have testimony? I think we’re running a little deep here.”
“I think that we have members that are very conscientious and are trying to understand the issue the best they can before we send the bill to be printed,” replied Rep. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls, vice chair of the committee.
After further discussion, Crane suggested that the wording of the proposed bill be augmented slightly to allow for the licensure exemption for persons practicing on a relative, but also to strike the words “in a relative’s home,” so the exemption is not limited to only one particular home.
With Crane’s suggested changes, the proposal passed. He said that the proposal has been sent to the Legislative Services Office for review. He anticipates that it will be returned to the business committee, as an actual bill for further consideration.