A House committee on health care licenses voted 12-0 Wednesday for House Bill 5783, sponsored by Chicago Democrat Rep. Will Burns to spare hair braiders from the same regulations as hairdressers. The measure now moves to the House floor.

Aspiring hair braiders have a simple message: we're not hairdressers. State lawmakers could be listening.

A House committee on health care licenses voted 12-0 Wednesday for House Bill 5783, sponsored by Chicago Democrat Rep. Will Burns to spare hair braiders from the same regulations as hairdressers. The measure now moves to the House floor.


The proposal would require hair braiders to take 300 hours of training, including 70 classroom hours and 230 hours as an intern. That's much less than the 1,500 hours of cosmetology training they must currently take to get a professional license.


Burns said some braiders who can't afford the training are forced to work from home to avoid fines and jail time.


"We have a lot of folks who are part of an underground economy that want to be legitimate, and this license provides them with an opportunity to do that," he said.


Sherry Harris, owner of the Sherry Amore hair braiding shop in the Chicago area, testified before the committee that hair braiders do not need the lengthy training because they don't use harsh chemicals.


"I'm just working with the natural hair," she said. "This is a way of supporting my family and giving job opportunities for others."


Daniel Bluthardt, director of the state Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, said his office lacked the manpower to regulate the separate hair braider licensing.


"In 1990, our department had over 400 employees, and today we're down to 215 employees," he said. "We're literally doing twice as much work with half the people."


But Bluthardt said he was willing to work with Burns on the legislation.


John Guidroz can be reached at 217-782-6882 or John.guidroz@sj-r.com.