Unfunny: South Carolina’s Job-Destroying Regulations


In 2004, Jon Stewart’s Daily Show featured South Carolina in a hilarious segment about the state’s absurd regulations on hair braiding.

That’s right. Regulations on hair braiding. The segment featured an interview with the head of the South Carolina Board of Cosmetology, who expressed her concerns about “harm to the public” stemming from unlicensed hair braiders. At the time, the law required 300 hours of training to legally braid hair.

The average cognizant person can see that unlicensed braiding poses no danger to the public. In 2005, South Carolina lawmakers did make an improvement: instead of 300 hours, hairbraiders now only need six hours of training in order to qualify for a license. Yet hair braiders are still required to have a license.  In addition, if you decided to use hair extensions as part of your braiding (a very common practice), the regulations require the full cosmetologist curriculum, comprised of 1,500 hours of class.

While all this is pretty funny, the problem of excessive regulation isn’t. Unnecessary regulations stifle entrepreneurship and job-creation – and at a time of double-digit unemployment, we’re in dire need of both. Politicians clamor about improving economic conditions for women, and yet they actively take steps to construct boundaries that make it difficult to be entrepreneurial in an industry that is dominated by women. It’s unconscionable to make entrepreneurship harder if not impossible for people who are trying to create value for themselves and their communities.

Here are five more head-scratching South Carolina regulations that stifle entrepreneurship and hurt efforts at organic (not government-driven) economic and community development:

  1. In order to become a licensed auctioneer, applicants must complete one year as an apprentice auctioneer or 80 hours of instruction in auctioneering at an approved institution. They must also pass a written examination. These regulations are so outdated that the agency was once on record recommending the entire regulatory board be eliminated.
  2. In order to be a licensed funeral home director, you must be over 18, with a clean criminal record, with two years at an accredited college or one year at a mortuary college, complete a 24 month apprenticeship, and pass an exam. The law also requires the board to establish a fee for anyone requesting to take the exam.
  3. Want to play a little “Freebird” in the streets of Charleston? Well, you’d better have a pen in your guitar case, because you’ll need to fill out some paperwork in order to get a “peddler’s license” for that. In order to legally work as a street performer in Charleston, “if you intend on actively or indirectly soliciting money or other items of value from the public, you will need a peddler’s permit and a business license prior to any performances.”
  4. If you’re like most Americans, you apply shampoo to your head every day. Want to apply shampoo to someone else’s head? Well, your years of on-the-scalp training don’t count in South Carolina. In order to apply shampoo, one must have “completed six weeks’ training as a barber assistant under the supervision of a registered barber who is qualified to train an assistant barber.”
  5. In a throwback to an earlier period in South Carolina, state law specifically requires fortunetellers to have a license: “It shall be unlawful for any person to follow the business of fortunetelling in any of the counties of this State, by traveling from place to place, without first obtaining from the clerk of the court of the county in which he wishes to follow his trade, a license permitting him to so do.”

These regulations’ existence on the books is a testament to the power of special interests in South Carolina. A needless regulation winds up in the law, not because lawmakers think it’s a good idea, but because a lobbyist representing some special interest convinced lawmakers to put it in.

It would be a mistake, however, to think that our regulatory regime is now at its peak. Every year, the state’s regulatory regime grows bigger and bigger. Take, for example, the size of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (LLR). LLR’s Division of Occupational Licensing oversees the enforcement and implementation of the state’s byzantine labor codes. From 2001 to 2011, the amount of money spent on the state’s professional and occupational licensing grew by 33.5 percent, from $11.49 million to $15.35 million. This year, LLR requested almost $18 million in funding for the administration of occupational licensing boards.

State officials are relentless in their pursuit of more and more regulation. There are three licensing bills pending consideration for the upcoming 2011-2012 legislative session. These bills, featured in the 2011 edition of our Best and Worst of the General Assembly, represent the overreaching and job-destroying tendencies of state lawmakers.

  1. S. 87 requires barbers to obtain continuing education credits. Because we know how often men’s hairstyles change. Status: Introduced in 2009; re-introduced in 2011; still pending.
  2. H. 3093 requires musical therapists to be licensed and subject to oversight by the South Carolina Board of Music Therapy. The usual regulations and licensing fees would apply. Status: Introduced in 2010; re-introduced in 2011; still pending.
  3. H. 4073’s purpose is to “safeguard life, health, and property, as well as consumer protection, and to promote the public welfare by improving the quality of human environmental design.” This is to be done by requiring interior designers to register with the state and assess fees and fines on outlaw interior designers. Status: In committee; still pending.

So, in your experience, which regulations kill jobs and dampen the entrepreneurial spirit?

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