By Christian Wade | The Center Square
Cutting someone’s hair without a professional license is no longer a crime in New Hampshire under a bill signed by Gov. Chris Sununu.
The new law updates the state’s occupational license laws to exempt services “provided without remuneration” from license requirements for barbering, cosmetology, and esthetics. Sununu signed the legislation along with a dozen other bills on Thursday.
Under the previous law, cutting hair without a state license is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a fine up to $2,000 or one year in prison.
The previous restrictions covered other professions and banned anyone from hiring a person “to engage in a practice regulated by this chapter, unless such person then holds a valid license or a temporary permit issued by the board to practice the respective profession.”
While the law is meant to prohibit unlicensed barber shops and other underground operations, it also means that cutting your neighbors’ hair could technically get you arrested.
The regulations became an issue during the pandemic when barbershops and hair stylists were forced to close to prevent spread of the coronavirus, leaving people with a few options to get a haircut.
The bill’s primary sponsor, Rep. Carol McGuire, R-Epsom, said in recent testimony on the bill that during the pandemic – when hair stylist shops were closed – the restrictions turned people trying to help family, friends or neighbors into criminals just by cutting their hair or trimming their nails.
McGuire and other supporters of the changes say the antiquated law was an affront to the Granite State’s “Live Free or Die” motto.
The measure was opposed by cosmetology groups, who argued that it would provide an opportunity for unlicensed barber shops and other illegal businesses to proliferate.
But the effort to lift the restrictions won support from many conservative groups such as Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire, which called the changes a “sensible step to eliminate the criminalizing of cosmetology without pay.”