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Texas-based company suing Iowa over occupational licensing requirements

The attorney representing an eyebrow business at Jordan Creek Town Center says the requirement for threaders to be licensed is a barrier to hiring enough workers.

WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Perfect Brow Bar is located inside the Jordan Creek Town Center in West Des Moines, and like many others, the business is struggling to hire and keep workers. But Arsah Enterprise, the Texas-based company that owns the brow bar, says occupational licensing is their biggest hurdle.

Those concerns caused the owner to pursue a lawsuit against the state of Iowa.

"We're challenging the statute and rules in Iowa, that says that if you want to pluck hair from somebody's eyebrows with the cotton thread, you have to get an esthetician license from the Board of Cosmetology," said Alan Ostergren, an attorney with Kirkwood Institute, who is prosecuting the case.

Currently, it takes 600 hours of training and $12,000 in tuition to get an esthetician license from the Iowa Board of Cosmetology.

"Not a single hour that training has anything to do with plucking hairs from somebody's eyebrows, and you have to pass a national test and pay for that," Ostergren said. "Not a single question on that test deals with plucking hairs from somebody's eyebrows with a cotton thread."

He argues those requirements are arbitrary and prevent people from getting jobs.

"I'd like to see the legislature come back to this issue, work with the governor, and really ask the fundamental question: For a lot of these occupations, do we need any kind of licensing whatsoever?" Ostergren said.

Gov. Kim Reynolds signed significant licensing reform legislation in 2020 that waived fees for some applicants and recognized three years of work experience as a substitute for education requirements. Reynolds also said this issue is among her priorities during her 2022 Condition of the State address.

"We need to continue our work this session to eliminate unnecessary licensing requirements that keep people from moving to or working in Iowa," Reynolds said.

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When asked about the progress made on occupational reform on Wednesday, Reynolds provided the following statement: "Iowa now has the most flexible licensing reciprocity and recognition laws in the country. We will continue to build upon that going forward."

Ostergren hopes the governor's efforts won't stop now. 

"This is a good example, though, of why there's more work to do," he said. "When will we understand that the licensing does nothing to protect public safety? All it does is protect people who are already providing these services from competition."

Local 5 reached out to the Iowa Democratic Party for comment on occupational licensing reform, but has not yet heard back.

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