News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 25, 2012

Hearing on bill eliminating some licensing abruptly canceled

Expected to be pulled, amended

Maureen Hayden

INDIANAPOLIS — Union protesters haven’t been able to stop a controversial labor bill in the Indiana Statehouse, but hairdressers may have killed a piece of legislation they loathe.

On Tuesday, a hearing on a bill to eliminate licensing requirements for cosmetologists, barbers and a handful of other occupations was abruptly canceled after an outpouring of protest. The bill is expected to be pulled from the session or significantly amended.

“We’re hairdressers, we’re all about the drama,” said Suz Haire, an Indianapolis hair designer who helped mobilize hundreds of bill opponents.

Haire even enlisted the help of Tabitha Coffey, a professional hairdresser and host of the reality TV show, “Tabitha Takes Over” on Bravo.

Coffey issued a call-out to hairdressers across Indiana to contact Indiana lawmakers considering what was billed as a government deregulation bill.

They responded by showing up in force Friday and again on Monday, joining the crowds of union protesters who were there to oppose the right-to-work legislation that would outlaw mandatory union dues for private-sector workers.

Many hairdressers showed up again early Tuesday morning for what was expected to be a committee vote on the bill, only to learn the committee meeting had been canceled.

They’re opposed to House Bill 1006, sponsored by Rep. David Wolkins, a Republican from Winona Lake, who said he was asked by his caucus to carry the bill.

The legislation would have eliminated professional licensing boards for cosmetologists, barbers, dietitians, hearing aid dealers, private investigator firms and security guards.

Haire said the bill would have made Indiana the only state in the nation without licensing requirements for hairdressers and barbers.

The bill came out of a legislative study committee that recommended the elimination of the licensing boards as a way to reduce unnecessary government regulation.

During a packed, two-hour hearing on the bill Friday , a long line of hairdressers spoke out against it. After the hearing, Wolkins said he wouldn’t kill the bill and wanted the legislature to vote on it.

But he also said the bill was “dumped” in his lap by Republican caucus leaders and that he had “nothing in it” other than he was bill’s carrier.

Wolkins declined a request to be interviewed on Tuesday. His press secretary said the bill would likely be killed or significantly amended.

Time is running out for the bill to be reworked, though. Other legislation is piling up in the House, because of boycotts and walkouts by House Democrats who are fighting the right-to-work bill.

The bill Wolkins carried was recommended by the Regulated Occupations Evaluation Committee, a legislative study committee created to look at regulations that cover the state’s licensed professions and occupations. The committee is chaired by John Graham, dean of the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

The committee found that licensing requirements for some occupations were excessive and weren’t needed to protect the public.

Haire said legislators didn’t understand the bill’s implications. “I’d like see what they’d say if one of them showed up with scabies or lice after going to an unlicensed hairdresser,” Haire said. “There are things they could do to improve licensing, but this isn’t it.”

Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star. She can be reached at