Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey slammed the state's cosmetology board for investigating a student who gave free haircuts to homeless people in Tucson last month.
As Reason detailed yesterday, the Arizona State Board of Cosmetology launched an investigation into Juan Carlos Montesdeoca after receiving complaints that he was cutting hair without a license. According to the complaint, first reported by Tucson News Now on Monday, the board received an anonymous complaint alleging that Montesdeoca was "requesting local businesses and local stylists to help out with free haircuts (unlicensed individuals) to the homeless."
In a letter sent Wednesday to members of the board, Ducey called the investigation "outrageous."
"Our job as public servants is to support Arizonans in their efforts to better their own lives—and certainly in their efforts to improve the lives of others," Ducey, a Republican, wrote. "Any actions by your board on this issue, outside of applauding Mr. Montesdeoca's efforts, are unnecessary and uncalled for."
The governor told the board to end the investigation and save Montesdeoca the trouble of traveling from Tucson to Phoenix to appear before the board. If the board is considering any penalties or fees against Montesdeoca, they should be waived immediately, Ducey said.
It's unclear what authority Ducey has over the board's actions, and whether he would be able to order it to drop the investigation into Montesdeoca or, as he did in the letter on Wednesday, merely call for them to do so. (Update: A spokesman for the governor's office clarifies for me that the board operates independently, but the goveror gets to appoint members as vacancies are available, and could act to remove members.)
Either way, his letter should be applauded for bringing wider attention to the absurd over-reaction of the state's cosmetology board. In targeting Montesdeoca, the board is being blatantly anti-competitive and tone deaf, but it's also wasting limited investigative resources that could otherwise be deployed to uncover actual examples of unlicensed cosmetologists putting the public's health and safety at risk—something the board believes is a real threat to Arizonans.
Stories like this make it clear why Arizona was rated as "the most broadly and onerously licensed state for low-and moderate-income workers," in a 2012 report from the Institute for Justice, a libertarian law firm that provides support to individuals and businesses that challenge anti-competitive licensing schemes. Getting a cosmetology license in Arizona requires more than a full year of expensive schooling in a wide range of beauty treatments.
Montesdeoca is in the process of getting that license, but the board's investigation of his free haircuts could put his career in jeopardy.
"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," Ducey wrote. "Instead, Mr. Montesdeoca finds the heavy hand of government working against him, trying to end his charitable and caring efforts."