Bipartisan RI Families Coalition Supports Hair Braider Freedom Legislation

Providence, RI -- Recognizing that many occupational licensing mandates disproportionately harm low-income families from embarking on a new or supplemental career path, the RI Families Coalition today issued its support for legislation that would free ‘natural hair braiders’ from the state’s burdensome occupational licensing requirement to work in their field of expertise.

House bill H7565 and Senate Bill S2323, which will be heard in the House Corporations and Senate Commerce committees, today (Tuesday) and this Thursday, respectively, would exempt natural hair braiders from the requirement to be licensed as hairdressers or cosmeticians, while also defining the harmless practice of natural hair braiding.

Joceyly DeCouto, who provided a live demonstration on the safety of her culture's natural hair braiding practice during her  testimony at last year's House Corporations committee hearing, is one person who could greatly benefit from the passage of this legislation. The Cape Verdean woman braided her daughter's hair, as she informed the committee in 2017 why she and other would-be entrepreneurs should not be required to meet the same costly licensing requirements as other stylists and cosmetologists who use chemicals and other potentially harmful tools.

“This culturally-sensitive hair styling involves no public safety risk. With the emergence of the shared and gig economies, as a state, we should be encouraging people to earn income in as many ways as they can, as opposed to putting up licensing road-blocks ,” said Ted Williams, director of the newly formed coalition. “This legislation would give Jocelyn and many others the chance to earn their way up the income ladder by deregulating this safe, African style hair braiding.”

Formed in 2017, the RI Families Coalition is a bi-partisan initiative in the state. The coalition is comprised of civil society leaders from across the philosophical spectrum, whose mission is to identify issues of common concern, where mutually agreeable solutions can be advanced. Currently, the RI Families steering committee includes Ray Rickman (Director, Stages of Freedom), Mike Stenhouse (CEO RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity), and Johanna Harris(attorney, author, and former Chair of the Providence Licensing Board), and Gary Sasse (director of the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Integrity and former state director of administration).

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