Brownback calls barber bill an economic burden
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday vetoed an obscure bill changing state rules for barbers, saying he wants to send a clear message that Kansas won’t needlessly burden free enterprise.
The administrator for the state Board of Barbering, which sought the legislation, was disappointed. One Democratic critic of the Republican governor called the veto “rather bizarre,” and another noted the governor’s support for additional regulations for abortion clinics, suggesting Brownback’s policy was “pro-business if it’s the kind of business we like.”
The bill Brownback vetoed would have required ex-barbers and former barber-school instructors to take a licensing exam again if they’d been out of the business two years. Current law allows a three-year gap, and the board said the change would promote public safety by making sure people returning to those professions still had strong skills.
The measure also codified two fees the board has been charging and made technical changes designed to beef up the board’s power to enforce its regulations. The bill cleared both chambers of the GOP-controlled Legislature last month by wide margins and with bipartisan support.
But the Republican governor’s veto called the bill “a clear example of the steady growth of state power over economic activity.”
Kansas governors occasionally use vetoes of obscure bills to make larger philosophical points, though sometimes lawmakers find their explanations baffling. For example, in 1991, Democratic Gov. Joan Finney vetoed a bill creating a Kansas Sheep Commission, complaining about how it was structured.
“These are what we would call rats and cats bills,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat, who found the veto bizarre. “Perhaps he sees barbers as the key to our great economic success.”
Peter Brownlie, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri, saw some irony in Brownback’s statements, noting the governor’s support for regulations for abortion providers, such as Brownlie’s group, which are now in litigation.
“Maybe we’ll just set up a barber’s chair in our reception area,” he said. “We are pro-business if it’s the kind of business we like.”
For the Board of Barbering, the issue was protecting public safety and health, said Administrator Bob Zook. Last year, seven people sought to return to barbering or to resume working as instructors after having spent between two and three years away from those jobs.
The five-member board, with a budget of about $166,000, regulates between 1,600 and 1,700 barbers and five barbering schools, with a sixth in Kansas City, Kan., awaiting a pre-opening inspection.
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