May 12, 2017 08:38 AM

Rep. Julie Emerson's HB468 approved by large margin after lengthy debate

Photo by Robin May

Carencro Rep. Julie Emerson's HB468 to deregulate and delicense the practice of natural hair braiding appeared to be an uncontroversial bill, but it ended up producing the longest debate and most extensive procedural maneuvering in the three-house House session that closed the week.

Because of a quirk in the House Order of the Day, Emerson's HCR5, a companion resolution to her bill which contained the language that amended and repealed parts of the State Board of Cosmetology's administrative control over the field of natural hair braiding, came up for consideration before her bill. That prompted some questioning from Rep. Jerry Gisclair of Larose about the sequence of events.

"Are we putting the cart before the horse here," Gisclair asked. "What happens if we pass the resolution and your bill fails?"

Emerson's response was that she would not continue to advance HCR5 under that scenario. Gisclair, who told Emerson he was simply relaying concerns expressed by his constituents, also questioned Emerson's assertion that there are no schools offering training in the practice. Emerson says she was told by the Board of Cosmetology that, in fact, no schools have offered natural hair braiding classes since the storms of 2005. Current law requires that practitioners of natural hair braiding (identified as "Alternative Hair Design" in the Board of Cosmetology rules) undergo 500 hours of classroom training in order to be licensed to practice in Louisiana.

Later in the session, when HB468 came up for consideration, Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill launched into a long statement about privatization before Speaker Taylor Barras asked her if she actually had a question for Emerson.

"What else are you going to deregulate," Hill asked. "Why don't we just deregulate everything and eliminate the Board of Cosmetology? Is that where you're heading?"

Emerson told Hill that she had no plans to introduce any other legislation that would deregulate activities now regulated by the Cosmetology Board.

Rep. Mike Huval of Breaux Bridge proposed an amendment which would have removed the training requirement on natural hair braiding but kept practitioners under the control of the Board of Cosmetology and subject to inspections and required to pay certain fees.

Emerson objected to the amendment, declaring that "it guts my bill." Her objection forced a vote. Huval's amendment failed.

Emerson then moved for a vote on her bill, which won handily.

HB468 and HCR5 now await assignment to a committee in the Senate.

There are three weeks remaining the session which must end no later than 6 p.m. on June 8.

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