COLUMN: How state boards control businesses

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By David Floyd | State Representative

When you want a license to practice, say, cosmetology, you need the permission of the Kentucky Board of Hairdressers and Cosmetologists. Without a license issued by them, you can’t teach cosmetology, own a business that teaches it, become an apprentice in cosmetology, or operate a beauty salon. Same thing applies to nail technicians. Why? Consumer protection. You can hurt someone using chemicals, or operate your salon in unsanitary conditions that could make someone ill.
You must renew your license every year, and your application for renewal must include proof of completion of at least six hours of continuing education, or “CE.” The board determines what constitutes valid CE, and it usually requires attendance at a program sponsored by professional and trade groups.
This is the law. Your General Assembly created the board, prescribed how members would be appointed and for what term, and encoded into the statutes all the provisions that I mentioned above, plus many more on the same subject. For cosmetologists, the relevant statute (law) is KRS 317A, which you can find online.
One of my committees is House Licensing and Occupations and, typically, changes to the statutes regarding CE and licensing come before our committee. I’ve learned to be suspicious of a board’s motivation, which is only proper; we should examine closely all of their recommendations. Might be my military background; we had our equivalent of annual CE, covering the same old same old.
One example came to us recently in HB 429, an act relating to CE for embalmers and funeral directors. The bill increases the CE requirement from 4 hours per year to 12 hours every two years, six of which must be from a live presentation. As with other licensing, you must complete the CE to continue to do business.
In committee, the Board of Embalmers and Funeral Directors presented the bill accompanied by a lobbyist. Now, when a lobbyist is necessary for a state board to request a modification to statutes, more alarms go off. Don’t get me wrong – as I’ve written before, a lobbyist is a great source of information and a good one will be completely honest with you. But something didn’t feel right on this one. There must be a very good reason for increasing the CE requirement for funeral directors and embalmers. In committee I asked, why? The answer was that every other state around us requires more. That’s not a good justification, I replied.
Every other member of the committee voted “yes” to send the bill to the floor of the House, but I passed and told them that I wanted input from the folks back home before I could support it, since no good reason had yet been offered. I went to my office and called every funeral director in the district. I told them about the bill and asked for their opinion on it. The response was unanimous: No. All agreed that there would be no benefit from increased hours. The technology doesn’t change much, they occasionally benefit from seminars on business-related ideas. But four hours was enough.
One funeral director forcefully explained that this change would mean he would have to go to a “convention” where live presentations would be offered. In the funeral business, you never know what your schedule will be, and if you’re the only qualified person at your business, you will miss the convention and, therefore, the CE; this would put everything at risk. And, he added, board directors don’t run their own business.
The board’s true purpose was thus revealed; they put on conventions and nobody comes. They offer interesting presentations, invite vendors to set up booths, pay expenses for presenters, and… still, not enough people come to make it worthwhile. The board is making an honest effort for their members; how to encourage attendance? Ah, make it all but mandatory. Get someone to sponsor a bill, hire a lobbyist to sell the idea, and put it into law.
On the House floor, I explained these points and brought with me 34 votes against the measure, with another 10 not voting, perhaps because I encouraged them to call their own constituents. The bill passed the House, but its prospects in the Senate are made less promising by the narrow margin.
Hearing from you is the best part of my job. Call me at home, or leave a message at 1-800-372-7181. This Saturday’s “Coffee with Dave” is at Botland’s 150 Quick Stop. The coffee’s on me, and I hope to see you there.