With the issues of salon safety and sanitation more and more prevalent in today’s health-conscious society, the need to protect the public from unsanitary and unsafe practices in all businesses is as great as ever before. It is these pressures that have finally broken through the legislative barrier of three of the last four states that are nail licensing holdouts. At the end of their respective legislative sessions this past June, Alaska, Nebraska and Connecticut all came away with new laws requiring at least some degree of licensure for nail techs. Now Utah, is the lone holdout.

Alaska: It’s a Start

Last May, the Alaska State Legislature passed Senate Bill 51, which was subsequently signed into law by Governor Tony Knowles. The new law, requiring licensure for manicurists, will most likely not go into effect until January 2000. Although the law requires considerably fewer hours than other states in order to obtain a license, it is a step in the right direction toward regulation.

Under the new law, there are two levels of manicuring licenses for nail technicians. The qualifications for the first license level or 12 hours of training in health and safety issues related to manicuring, according to Catherine Reardon, director of the Alaska Division of Occupational Licensing. Although the Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers has yet to sit down to write regulations, it already has been determined that a state exam will not be required. “The Board needs to write regulations before license applications can be distributed and licenses can issued,” says Reardon. “Therefore, Alaska’s manicurist licensing program will probably not begin before January 2000.” The Board is due to meet in the fall to discuss the new law.

“The sanitation portion was the main concern because of blood-borne diseases,” says Sheryl Sutton, chairman of the Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers. “Since our main concern is for public safety, we wanted to be able to regulate whether nail technicians know about sanitation issues dealing with humans.” The 12 hours of training in health and sanitation will be required of all nail technicians in order to get a license.

The “advanced manicurist” license, on the other hand, requires technicians to complete 250 hours of training and pass a state exam. At this time the advanced manicurist license is optional and it’s up to individual nail techs to decide if they want to get the extra training as a form of “endorsement.”

So what has taken the state of Alaska so long to set even such a basic licensing requirement for nail techs? According to Sutton, this is the first time it wasn’t tagged onto a bill as a last-minute addendum, which always left the Board unprepared to argue its case.

“We aren’t interested in regulating nail technicians’ training and techniques,” adds Sutton. “We are into deregulation. Alaska is a cowboy state. Most of what people learn here, they learn through apprenticeship programs.” Sutton adds that due to the lack of nail schools, Alaska nail technicians learn techniques by working with more experienced techs.

Under the new law, the Alaska Board of Barbers and Hairdressers will still consist of two licensed barbers, two licensed hairdressers (one of whom is also licensed as an esthetician), and one public member. “Since we are not regulating the way nail technicians work, we won’t add a nail technician to the board at this time,” she says.

Questioned on why they are only requiring 12 hours of study in health and sanitation, Sutton says, “We have to look at why we are a board, and we are a board to protect the public’s safety. Anyone who works on, or touches another person, needs to have education.”


Connecticut: Hide and Seek

During the last legislative session, Connecticut nail technicians felt positive after Senate Bill 404 Substitute passed in the Senate and moved onto the House floor. All indications were that the bill would pass without a problem, but when the legislative session ended on June 14, the official word was that SB 404 Substitute had died in the House. “Looks like we’ll have to start again next year,” said Mindy Borrego, owner of Mindy fingers in Granby, Conn.

She was wrong. What had really happened was something that often occurs toward the end of the session – the bill was actually amended into something else. According to Stephen Lewis, committee administrator for the Public Health Committee in Connecticut, “The provisions of SB 404 were largely incorporated into House Bill 7501, and that bill passed in the House on the very last day of the session.”

So what does this mean for nail technicians? “It creates a new licensure category for nail technicians that will go into effect in October 2000,” says Lewis.

The new law states: “….an applicant for a license as a nail technician shall submit evidence satisfactory to the Commissioner of Public Health of having: (1) Completed a course of study acceptable to the commissioner in the theoretical and practical components of nail care of not less than 150 hours of study that include coursework in antifungal techniques, blood-borne diseases, and clean air requirements, and (2) passed an examination prescribed by the commissioner.” The initial license application fee will be $50 under the new law.

There is also a broad grandfathering provision that will allow applicants who have practiced as nail technicians for a minimum of one year within a three-year period to bypass the 150 hours of study.

As in Alaska, one of the main concerns that allowed this bill to pass into law was public health. “We found that there were health concerns making licensure necessary to protect the public,” says Lewis. “The hang-up in previous years stemmed largely from the fact of whether it was a public health issue.”

Co-sponsored by Senators Melodie Peters and Eileen Daily, and Representative Andrea Stillman, the new law also states that “…. No board shall exist for the following professions that are licensed or otherwise regulated by the Department of Public Health: (23) nail technician. The department shall assume all powers and duties normally vested with a board in administering regulatory jurisdiction over said professions.” What this means in nail technicians will not have their own board to oversee the rules and regulations of the license, but rather the Department of Public Health will act as the governing body.


Nebraska: It’s the Law

The third state to pass new legislation requiring licensure of nail technicians of Nebraska. Nail technicians in Nebraska have been publishing for a licensing proposal for the past several years, yet have failed to get anything on the books – until now.

According to Kris Chiles, section administrator, credentialing division of the Nebraska Health and Human Services System, several key changes were made to Legislative Bill 68 this year that might have been what allowed it to pass through without being shot down. The main change was in the number of hours that the bill called for in order to become a licensed nail tech. “In previous years, the proposed amount of hours for licensure was 600,” says Chiles. “In regards to hours on this bill that passed, it calls for anywhere from 150 to 300 hours, including 16 hours of drill work.”

The bill states reasons for licensing as “… the protection of the health and safety of its citizens is a principal concern and duty of the state of Nebraska, and the reasonable regulation and limitation of a field of practice or occupation for the purpose of protecting the health and safety of the public is a legitimate and justified exercise of the police power of the state.”

So with the health and safety concerns for the general public and a lessened number of hours required, both the Senate and the House passed LB 68 into law. In addition, a nail technician will now sit on the Nebraska State Board of Cosmetology, which will decide the appropriate number of hours and the fee structure for licensing. “Once the nail tech is appointed, the board will look at developing the curriculum,” says Chiles. The law is set to go into effect January 2000.

For now, it stands that Nebraska nail techs will be required to complete between 150 and 300 hours of education and pay between $10 and $300 for the state exam. The law also has incorporated grandfathering clause, which allows nail technicians who have already been practicing to bypass the required hours if they apply by Nov. 1, 1999. With the application, the nail tech must also pay a fee and make a statement that she will abide by the statutes, laws, and regulations of the profession.

The law also calls for nails-only salons and nail areas within cosmetology salons to be licensed. “Establishments may be grandparented as well, according to the new law,” states Chiles.


Utah: They Stand Alone

So, three down, one to go. What is it that is making Utah the only state to hold out on licensing of nail technicians? According to Kim Morris, communication director for the Utah Department of Commerce, the bill has consistently been introduced for the past couple of years, but has yet to make it out of committee.

“The Department of Commerce is not out looking for professions to regulate,” says Morris. “Our philosophy is that regulation is the last resort. If there are problems that need to be cleared up due to public safety, that is when we step in. We are actually looking for ways to deregulate certain industries.”

“The state of Utah is very anti-licensure,” says Fran Brown, president of the Beauty School Association in Utah. “For the past four or five years, we just couldn’t get nails out onto the floor.”

With Utah the only state left that has yet to license nail technicians, you have to wonder what is happening. Cheryl Pierce, a member and past president of the board of directors for the NCA of Utah says, “It all just comes down at a small number of nail schools that don’t agree with the 300 hours that we feel is necessary in order to fully teach nail technicians. They turn students out in three months, and there is no way that they have enough time to give the students everything they need.”

Pierce cites sanitation as one of the elements that she feels needs to be stressed to nail technicians in her state. “For the protection of the public, I would like to see nail techs licensed,” she says. “We have to understand that education is key.”

In terms of getting a licensing bill to committee, things aren’t going to get any easier. The state has instituted a “sunrise” committee, where all bills must justify why the legislature should even consider regulation. “The industry that wants to be regulated has to go to the committee and prove that unregulated practice has clearly harmed the health or safety of the public, and that the public will benefit from regulation,” says Morris. This year, the bill never even got out of subcommittee. This tells Morris that there was not enough effort from the industry to work the bill and talk to its sponsors.

But according to Pierce, the industry is behind the licensing of nail techs. “We didn’t just pull this out of the air,” she says. “We have done research using tried-and-true methods from other states. We just want it to be legally licensed with the proper education.”

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