Arizona Governor Stands Up to State’s Cosmetology Licensing Law

Student investigated for giving free haircuts to homeless without cosmetology license

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Arizona's Republican governor sent a letter condemning the state's cosmetology board for launching an investigation into a student who gives free haircuts to the homeless because he does not have a state-issued cosmetology license.

Juan Carlos Montesdeoca, who used to be homeless, has been going to a Tucson park to give haircuts to homeless individuals, some of whom haven't had their hair cut in years. The Arizona State Board of Cosmetology alerted Montesdeoca in January that it was investigating an anonymous complaint that he was performing the service without a license, as required by state law.

Now Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is sticking up for Montesdeoca, calling on the board to end the "outrageous" investigation in a letter.

"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. "I find this outrageous, and I call on you to end your investigation."

Montesdeoca told a local news station that he gives the haircuts "out of the kindness of [his] heart" and "out of the memory of [his] mom, because she lost her hair."

He is working to obtain his cosmetology license, but worries the free haircuts he gave could jeopardize his application to the board.

"They can suspend–even before I even try to get a license, they can say no," he said. "That would be very very unfortunate."

The board would not comment on Montesdeoca's case, but said it stands by the statute that states "a person shall not perform or attempt to perform cosmetology without a license or practice in any place other than in a licensed salon."

Ducey wrote that Montesdeoca was being stifled by the "heavy hand of government."

"Mr. Montesdeoca finds the heavy hand of government working against him, trying to end his charitable and caring efforts," he wrote in the letter.

"Save Mr. Montesdeoca the inconvenience of having to travel to Phoenix to appear before your body, and waive any fees or penalties the cosmetology board is considering against him," he wrote. "Any actions by your board on this issue, outside of applauding Mr. Montesdeoca’s efforts, are unnecessary and uncalled for."

This is not the first time Ducey has taken a stand against regulations in Arizona. His first official action in 2015 was a moratorium on new regulations by state agencies.

"I’m instructing the directors of every agency to conduct a top-to-bottom review of regulations, and then to send me a list of all the ones we can do without," Ducey said in his first state address. "Wherever we find any regulation that is outdated, irrational, unfair, or destructive to free and honest enterprise in Arizona—that regulation will be gone."

Ducey also stood up for ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft after a state agency planned to shut down the companies by mandating that all drivers obtain a commercial driver's license. Ducey fired the agency head.

Uber announced late last year that it would move its self-driving car project from California to Arizona due to difficulties dealing with regulations.

"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 wrote in his letter on Montesdeoca.

Brent Scher   Email | Full Bio | RSS
Brent Scher is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He graduated from the University of Virginia, where he studied foreign affairs and politics.