- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 4, 2015

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - People in Iowa who specialize in African-style hair braiding could be licensed to work under a bill approved Wednesday by a House panel.

Members of a state government subcommittee agreed that the 2,100 hours of training at a cosmetology school needed for a work license in Iowa would be an unnecessary burden to people who just want to specialize in African-style hair braiding. They discussed the possibility of a specialized license.

“We’re asking someone who is excellent at their craft … to come to a school that doesn’t even teach their craft,” said Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad, a Democrat from Des Moines and a co-sponsor of the bill.

Rep. Dawn Pettengill, a Republican from Mount Auburn, is the other co-sponsor of the bill. She said she would sign off with plans for an amendment to address concerns from industry groups about sanitation issues that might arise from people braiding hair in their homes.

The amendment would also address a concern raised by Kent Hartwig, a lobbyist for the Iowa Cosmetology Schools Association, that language exempting African-style hair braiding from the definition of cosmetology would prohibit licensed hair stylists from doing such braiding.

Abdul-Samad also said the bill needs to expand on what a specialty license would look like. If a license to work from home will require conditions like an extra sink or a separate door for customers, he said it becomes problematic because it’s often costly.

Nancy Mwirotsi, who works on a program that often helps teach refugee children from Africa how to do computer coding, said many of their families are interested in braiding and want to be licensed.

“They’re asking us to offer this way so that they can open shops because that’s all they know,” she said.

The bill next goes to the full State Government Committee.

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