House committee considers new barbering regulations, banning misuse of barber poles

By: - March 10, 2021 7:37 pm

Rep. Mike Amyx, D-Lawrence, and a third-generation barber, chimed in to support a bill modifying the Kansas Board of Barbering’s authority modify fees. He said COVID-19 could present financial issues to the industry and so flexibility is needed. (Sept. 22, 2020, photo by Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas barbers are again pushing for a bill creating the Kansas Barbering Act, an overhaul of state standards for cutting hair professionally.

The bill would modify licensing standards to ensure all Kansas barbers receive a proper education, authorize the Kansas Board of Barbering to increase fees for testing and creates new criminal penalties for violating these statutes or marketing oneself as a barber without the proper qualifications. House Bill 2419 also would modify the definition of barbering to include the head, face and neck area, and ban the display of barber poles under certain circumstances.

“The statutes have been constructed with the intent of strengthening our profession and upholding the inherent responsibility bestowed upon us,” said Victoria Rajewski, a member of the Kansas Board of Barbering. “We have made every effort to ensure there will be no negative impact to the public or our licensees on these significant changes being presented.”

The effort is not new to the Statehouse, having been championed by Rep. Mike Amyx, a Democrat and barber from Lawrence, in previous legislative sessions. Those attempts to modify state statute were promptly cut off on the House Floor over questions of the bill’s necessity. 

Similar questions were again raised during the House General Government Budget Committee hearing on the bill Wednesday. Rep. Paul Waggoner, R-Hutchinson, questioned what inherent public safety risk this legislation addresses.

Proponents said chemicals are being handled, and straight razors are quite sharp, so while barbering may not present an obvious risk, there are dangers if done improperly.

That is why supporters of the bill argued for regulations mandating more stringent licensing requirements, additional time in the field before qualifying as a teacher and raising the minimum age for official barbers from 16 to 17. 

The bill would give the Kansas Board of Barbering’s authority to modify fees, something it has not done in 13 years. The board is a completely fee-funded entity and currently accrues about $20,000 per year.

However, the pandemic has presented several uncertainties about fiscal well-being in the industry, proponents said. They said the desire is not to increase the fees if they can avoid it but to allow the board flexibility to do so should the need arise.

Amyx, a third-generation barber, noted that amid COVID-19, barber examinations had come to halt and would likely cost a large sum when they resume.

“We’re gonna see that fund balance shrink rather rapidly,” Amyx said. “In a couple of years, I’m sure no matter what we do with the caps on in this bill, we’re going to have to come back and reconsider.”

However, Jonathan Lueth, a lobbyist for Americans for Prosperity, argued these regulations would create a web of red tape and make it incredibly difficult for those interested to join the industry. He referenced research conducted by the Knee Center for study of occupational regulation — a Saint Francis University academic research center partially funded by the Charles Koch — indicating Kansas already has more stringent regulations than all bordering states.

“This bill does nothing more than make it more difficult to enter the field of barbering, which is already a shrinking field and signal to those who do want to enter that field that Kansas does not want them,” Lueth said. “And that we will continue to be ranked in the top 10 in the country for outward migration as those students leave our state to practice their chosen profession elsewhere.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.