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IN THE NEWS: Task Force To Review Occupational Licensing

By Dale Denwalt, The Journal Record

Gov. Mary Fallin is putting her political weight behind the issue of whether occupational licenses are too burdensome for business.

She formed a task force to examine Oklahoma’s licensing laws, which include educational and reporting requirements for jobs like physician, architect, and electrician.

But there are other job classes that require a state license that draw the ire of people like John Tidwell, Oklahoma’s director of Americans for Prosperity Foundation.

Tidwell said the national discussion has focused on hair braiding; in Oklahoma, a hair braider must take 600 hours of classes.

Tidwell said licensing requirements that have a close link to people’s safety and health care likely won’t be affected by the task force’s work.

“It’s the ones that create entrepreneurs, that eliminate those barriers for folks to start their own businesses, to create jobs and flourish in the economy – those are the ones that we’ve got to look at first and foremost,” Tidwell said. “There’s a lot of really great opportunity there that’s not being realized.”

Dorcas Koida is two weeks away from opening a hair-braiding shop of her own in Oklahoma City. She is from west Africa and got her license in Texas. She said the education requirement should be lessened.

“We don’t use chemicals,” Koida said. “We don’t perm hair. We just braid.”

She learned to braid hair before she moved to the United States.

“When I went to class, everything they showed, I already knew,” she said.

Still, Koida said she likes the idea of requiring state recognition of her industry.

“If you have a license, it’s more professional,” she said. “When the customer comes in and sees the license, you know it’s professional.”

Cosmetology instructor Sheila Kissick with Francis Tuttle Technology Center said her students must take 1,500 hours during a usual two-year course of study. The school doesn’t specifically offer a braiding technician program, but she said there are beauticians who like to braid.

In all, however, she said she doesn’t hear grumbling about the education or licensing requirements among her students.

“In some cases, you hear the opposite,” she said. “They’d like to have a little more time.”

The task force studying occupational licenses will be led by Labor Commissioner Melissa McLawhorn Houston. She became interested in the topic when she took over the agency and began researching how other agencies handle their licensing requirements, including the best kinds of technology that can be used.

“It does not appear there’s a central point for that information,” Houston said. “It’s difficult to even begin to define the universe of how many licenses are issued in the state of Oklahoma and who issues them.”

She said there probably won’t be any findings available to lawmakers for the 2017 session.