Republican Governor Overrules Board, Paves Way for Homeless to Receive Haircuts

This story of government stopping a cosmetology student from helping the homeless turned heads and broke hearts a few days ago. Thankfully, Republican Arizona Governor Doug Ducey stepped in to make things right.

Tucson News Now reported that Juan Carlos Montesdeoca was being investigated for giving free haircuts to the homeless without a license. Montesdeoca himself had been homeless in the past.

“Out of the kindness of my heart,” Montesdeoca said. “Out of the memory of my mom, because she lost her hair.”

“Out of the memory of my mom, because she lost her hair.”

Tucson News Now also reported that the executive director of the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology, the board investigating Montesdeoca, cited the state statute that says, “A person shall not perform or attempt to perform cosmetology without a license or practice in any place other than in a licensed salon.” She added that working outside a licensed salon and using an unlicensed person, is a “real risk.”

The report continued, “Montesdeoca said he wasn’t aware of this regulation and is now worried that the haircuts he offered for free could now cost him his future in cosmetology.”

“They can suspend — even before I even try to get a license, they can say no. That would be very, very unfortunate,” Montesdeoca said.

Ducey stepped in to help Montesdeoca.

Tucson News Now reports:

In a letter to the board, Ducey said, “I find this outrageous, and I call on you to end your investigation, save Mr. Montesdeoca the inconvenience of having to travel to Phoenix to appear before your body, and waive any fees or penalties the cosmetology board is considering against him.”

The statement continued, “The fact that one of our own citizens is volunteering his time and talents in an effort to help those who need it, is exactly the kind of citizenship we should be encouraging and celebrating.”

“I love that he finds my story moving and inspirational because I find him very inspiring as well,” Montesdeoca told Tucson News Now. “I’m very thankful that he wrote this letter and he’s got my back.”

“I love that he finds my story moving and inspirational because I find him very inspiring as well,” Montesdeoca told Tucson News Now. “I’m very thankful that he wrote this letter and he’s got my back.”

He hopes to one day run a “salon on wheels” in his hometown of Douglas that caters to people in need. “It’s not a crime to help other people. It’s not a crime to make people beautiful,” Montesdeoca said. (Read the full story here.)

This story sounds crazy and like something far out of the norm.

Unfortunately, it’s all too common. State licensing boards are notoriously corrupt and prevent people from pursuing their dreams and living their lives.

Of course doctors should be licensed, but what about florists? Few know stories like this better than the Institute for Justice (IJ). The public-interest law firm represented a woman you should know. Her name was Sandy Meadows.

Meadows was a widow with little education who lived alone in Baton Rouge. She never had to support herself before and didn’t have savings when her husband passed away. She never had to support herself before and her only way to make money was by making floral arrangements. But Louisiana licenses florists, just like doctors or lawyers.

Louisiana licenses florists, just like doctors or lawyers.

Her lawyer, Clark Neily, who now serves as director of IJ’s Center for Judicial Engagement, wrote:

“Sandy tried five times to pass the licensing exam, but it was too subjective. Besides taking a written test, applicants had to make four floral arrangements in four hours. A panel of working florists would grade the arrangements and decide whether the applicant was good enough to set up shop and compete with them. Usually they said no.

When agents of the Louisiana Horticulture Commission found out that Sandy was managing the floral department of an Albertsons grocery store without a license, they threatened to shut it down. The store had no choice but to let her go and hire a state-licensed florist instead. Prevented by government from doing the only work she knew, Sandy had no way to make a living. She had no car, no phone, and, on the last day I saw her alive, no electricity because she couldn’t afford to pay her utility bill. In October 2004, Sandy Meadows died alone and in poverty because the State of Louisiana wouldn’t allow her to work in a perfectly harmless occupation — and I couldn’t persuade a federal judge to protect her right to do so.

This is outrageous, unjust, and unconstitutional.”

Neily explains why florists are even licensed in Louisiana, and that it has nothing to do with health or safety. Instead, it was about “suppressing competition and enabling industry insiders to keep out newcomers.”

“And among the things they mentioned as possible concerns with unlicensed floristry were misplaced corsage pins, the possibility that floral wire — which is used to hold the stems together on a bouquet — if improperly installed could come unsprung and get entangled in the bride’s gown and then she could trip in the aisle on the day of her wedding and that would be very embarrassing. This was actually said to me by somebody under oath who worked for the Louisiana Horticulture Commission. And then of course there’s the specter of “infected dirt,” which is actually cited by the judge in upholding the law. I don’t know to this day what that dirt was supposed to be infected with, or what good it would do to require people to pass an exam that has nothing on it about infected dirt. But the judge apparently felt otherwise and upheld the law partly on that basis.”

Arbitrary and ridiculous occupational licensing regulations almost stopped Montesdeoca from helping the homeless, and succeeded in hurting Meadows. IJ takes up many other occupational licensing suits to help people pursue the careers they want without absurd blocks.

Some states and localities ban food trucks from operating near restaurants—not because of health or safety, but rather to maintain monopolies. Some places even regulate storytelling.

Prevented by government from doing the only work she knew, Sandy had no way to make a living.

IJ has an ally in Ducey, who in 2016 appointed IJ co-founder Clint Bolick to the Arizona Supreme Court

Ducey has a history as long as his administration of putting his foot down when it comes to arbitrary and harmful regulations. His first action in office was issuing a moratorium on regulatory rulemaking. In March 2015, Ducey signed the bipartisan “Arizona Beer Bill,” which protected the state’s craft brewing industry and created jobs in Arizona. “This is a common-sense reform to an arbitrary and outdated law,” said Ducey.

The Arizona governor has also worked to make sure Uber and Lyft have a fair chance to compete in Arizona, reportedly firing the head of the Department of Weights and Measures for planning a pre-Super Bowl sting against Uber and Lyft to try to shut them down.

Ducey recently launched RedTape.AZ.gov—a site where Arizonans can recommend updates to the state’s regulatory system. “This innovative program will decrease the time and energy it takes to clear out old regulations and will speed up the process of improving government for the 21st century,” said Ducey.

People like Montesdeoca have allies in IJ and Ducey. With their leadership, more people will be able to change lives and live their own without government corruption in the way.

Shohana Weissmann is the Digital Director for Opportunity Lives. You can follow her on Twitter @senatorshoshana.