SALT LAKE CITY — Utahns who want to charge to provide any single type of hair braiding would be exempt from licensing under a bill supported Wednesday by the Legislature’s Business and Labor Interim Committee.

African hair braiding is already exempt from licensing as a result of a federal court ruling in August that a Centerville woman who grew up in Sierra Leone did not need a cosmetology license that requires 2,000 hours of education.

But the ruling did not clarify what constitutes African hair braiding or address other types of hair braiding, including more elaborate extensions that are glued or woven into the hair.

The sponsor of the bill, Rep. Jim Dunnigan, R-Taylorsville, said the 2,000 hours of education still required for any type of hair braiding not covered by the court ruling was too much.

Dunnigan's bill, approved with two committee members opposed, would also lower the number of education hours required for offering multiple types of braiding services to either 300 or 600 hours, depending on the skill level involved.

The hearing was filed with beauty school students, some of whom modeled their elaborate braided hairstyles for the committee as their instructor described the work that went into them.

Lobbyists for the Utah Beauty School Owners Association circulated photos showing the health and safety concerns associated with braiding, including the spread of lice, ringworm and even flesh-eating bacteria. But they did not oppose the bill, calling it a compromise.

Rep. Derek Brown, R- Salt Lake, who voted against recommending the bill to the 2013 Legislature, questioned the need for the changes.

“Why are we exempting anyone? If this is about health and safety, why are we exempting moms from braiding their kids?” Brown asked. “This bill doesn’t make any sense. … (But) if this is about protecting an industry, all of a sudden the bill makes a lot of sense.”

Dunnigan said he actually was trying “to deregulate and reduce the amount of regulation for some services,” acknowledging that his bill may not go far enough for some lawmakers.

Rep. Eric Hutchings, R-Kearns, called the bill a “great first step” to help make it easier for people to earn money by removing barriers.

“We need to continue doing this exercise,” Hutchings said.

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