EDITORIAL: Shampoo bill shows why NY needs business reform

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion

Every once in a while, New York state government reminds you why it’s got one of the worst reputations for business development in the country.

With the covid crisis, it’s been easy to get caught up in other things.

But a piece of legislation cosponsored by two local Democratic lawmakers making its way through the legislative process could serve as a juicy metaphor for all that’s wrong with New York’s regulation of business.

And it’s an example of why if New York is going to recover fully from the covid crisis, it needs to make itself more friendly to business and make it easier for people to find and retain jobs – not the opposite.

Hope you’re sitting down for this one.

A bill (A6578/S8862), sponsored in the state Assembly by Carrie Woerner and John McDonald would establish a certificate program for “shampoo assistants.”

Yes, this job is pretty much what it seems to be. They prepare customers in hair salons to get their hair shampooed, placing an apron over their clothes and rubbing shampoo in their hair, as well as performing other basic salon tasks like sweeping up hair.

Those seeking this position would be required, under the new legislation, to complete up to 500 hours of the required 1,000 hours of training in a cosmetology course and obtain a certificate from the state (for a fee, of course).

Those who practice shampoo assistance without an up-to-date certificate could be fined up to $500 for a first offense and $1,000 for subsequent violations. Businesses also could be subject to penalties.

While the bill text tries to make this legislation out to be some kind of benefit for the employees and salons, this is nothing more than a blatant overreach by the state to collect money from fees and fines (The bill even states in the bill memo the financial rewards of fines and fees for the state), to create yet another bureaucratic hurdle for New York businesses in hiring, and to make it more difficult for people to get and retain jobs.

Really? Five-hundred hours of training in a cosmetology school, the equivalent of 62 eight-hour days of training, to learn the finer arts of shampooing someone’s hair? Not to denigrate the work, but something like that hardly requires such an intense degree of training. Many long-haul trucking companies only require 160-180 hours of training to drive a tractor-trailer.

And not only will these assistants have to put in the course time, they’ll also have to fork over the tuition.

A 1,000-hour cosmetology program generally runs from $13,000 to $18,000. Even half that amount for half the training is far beyond the financial capabilities of many individuals who would be seeking such a job.

Here’s what’s going to happen if this bill passes.

Businesses that need shampoo assistants are either going to have to fire the ones they have to avoid fines, putting people out of work unnecessarily.

Or they won’t hire shampoo assistants, dumping the work on existing employees and depriving individuals of a legitimate job in a time when unemployment in New York is nearly 16% and future looks bleak.

New York is known for placing unnecessary and expensive obstacles in the way of businesses and workers.

The Department of Labor, for example, lists 137 professions that require licensing, certification or registration in New York — everything from farriers (the people who trim horses’ hooves) to weighmasters (they certify the weight of bulk items) to nail salon specialists.

Granted, many of the professions need licensing for health, legal, financial and safety reasons. If you’re on trial for murder, you want to be sure your lawyer is licensed.

And many of the state’s regulations are designed to protect workers’ rights, occupational health and public safety.

But how much is the state raking in from overbearing requirements for certification and annual or semi-annual fees, at the expense of workers and their employers?

The state’s reputation for over-regulation is well-earned. And legislation like the shampoo bill — which imposes a heavy licensing burden on a job that clearly doesn’t require it — only enhances that reputation.

It’s no wonder people get frustrated and seek employment in other states. It’s no wonder why so many businesses pass on New York when deciding where to locate or expand.

New York needs to reconsider the regulations it has. Instead of adding to them, it needs to remove or reduce the obstacles to employment and hiring when safety and health isn’t at stake.

If state lawmakers want the economy to recover and thrive in the future, they need to start by not doing things like this.

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