Some suspected it and, at some point they supposed, the confession was inevitable.
The state of Tennessee came out of the closet this week and admitted what everyone else had known for years. In court documents, the state more or less said it would grant certain people advantages over others in the business world and create an unfair playing field — for political reasons.
As reported, people who want a license to shampoo must take hundreds of hours in coursework costing thousands of dollars. The Beacon Center of Tennessee, a free market think tank, announced last month it’s suing the state to remove those regulations.
“Much of what states do is to favor certain groups over others on economic grounds. We call this politics,” members of the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office said in their official response.
The response also said states can “engage in economic preference.”
Harlow Sumerford, spokesman for Tennessee Attorney General Herb Slatery, told Tennessee Watchdog his office does not comment on pending litigation.
Sumerford said the opinion comes not from Slatery’s office but from a past opinion from the Federal Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Beacon Center President Justin Owen said he “was appalled by the state’s response.”
“When they cite the federal courts they are essentially endorsing that perspective, and they are arguing it is the proper role of the Legislature to favor certain groups over others on economic grounds — otherwise they would not have incorporated that into their response,” Owen said.
“We were pretty shocked they’d go so far as to argue that it is proper for the government to effectively pick winners and losers and engage in economic preferences when it comes to something like occupational licensing.”
Braden Boucek, Beacon’s litigation director, said last month these state regulations aren’t necessary to protect to health and safety.
“These sorts of laws are designed to create fees to pay for the boards that regulate them and to restrict competition from people already in the field,” Boucek said last month.
Other coursework requirements, Boucek said, include detailed instructions on rinsing hair, draping clients with clean towels and treating hazardous waste — assuming clients start gushing blood.
There’s even a class on answering phone calls, Boucek said.
No school in Tennessee offers these courses, he said, adding the only alternative is a cosmetology license, requiring 1,500 hours of classwork and upwards of $35,000 in tuition, Boucek said.
The Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, which oversees the state’s cosmetology board, has thus far declined comment.
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