Jerry Kopel

Hair Braiders

By Jerry Kopel

Nov. 15, 2008

One consumer is losing her hair, another's son is just lost, and the third is losing money due to poor solar electric installation.

At least, those are the issues raised by applicants who received Sunrise reviews from the Dept. of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) and who want the 2009 legislature to regulate Hair Braiders, Human Trackers, and Solar Electric Installers.

* * *

Ouch! That hurts! If your hair is being constantly braided, you may be suffering "traction alopecia", defined by DORA as "a hair loss condition caused by damage to the dermal papilla and hair follicle by constant pulling or tension over a long period".

One hair braiding isn't going to cause a problem, but doing it wrong a number of times could. As used in this column "hair braiding" includes "natural hair styling".

"Hair braiding", states DORA, is used overwhelmingly by persons of African-American descent and "can be traced back over 4,000 years to the Caribbean and ... Africa."

(However, I have a video of singer Tony Bennett's life when his head was bald except for a "scalp braid" lying flat against the sides of his scalp.)

Hair braiding is presently regulated by licensing under the Cosmetology statutes. The problem is, it is given slight attention. As DORA states: "Hair braiders ... must currently complete lengthy, expensive training programs that focus on chemical services and hair cutting (and) offer little or no training in African-style hair braiding."

The result is "a licensed hairstylist can legitimately provide services ... without having a single hour of training", while an unlicensed person ... providing services for years is in violation of the law". The applicant wants a separate licensing program.

After thoroughly discussing sanitation and infection concerns, DORA suggests Colorado join Kansas, Minnesota, and Mississippi in exempting hair braiders from the Cosmetology statute after they take a health and sanitation seminar (I would instead suggest a course.)

I would also suggest a data-base under the Cosmetology statute to identify hair braiders, similar to the unlicensed psychotherapists data-base. Require them to provide consumers with written information regarding sanitation and infection concerns.

* * *

Chances are slim to none that there will be a bill in 2009 to certify "human trackers".

The applicant is a father unhappy with the way a Larimer County sheriff's office proceeded in a search for the applicant's son.

What do human trackers do? According to applicant, he or she "recognizes and locates footprints, obtains pertinent incident information, recognizes and resolves footprint contradiction or contamination.

In Colorado, the Joel Hardin Professional Tracking Services has courses in the state. Introductory certification (novice - finding signs) which is followed by more extensive education leading up to "master trackers".

DORA found all sheriffs are aware of their ability to call in human trackers under CRS 24-32-2107 (10) (a), usually dealing through the Colorado Search and Rescue Board (CSRB), a non-profit corporation that coordinates search and rescue services.

CSRB in turn contacts the Rocky Mountain Trackers Association of which 30 of 42 members are located in Colorado. The Dept. of Local Affairs has a $180,000 search and rescue fund (CRS 33-1-112.5).

DORA determined no state presently regulates human trackers, and that the present Colorado system of delegation is effective without further regulation.

* * *

There are 300 installers of solar systems on homes and businesses, which systems, states DORA "are typically mounted on roofs ... with a reasonable amount of non-shaded, unobstructed roof space during the day's key sun hours". The system not only provides electricity, it can also send unused, excess power back to a utility for rebates to the consumer.

The applicant urging licensing is Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) which has certified 29 Colorado installers. Credentialing another 31 Colorado installers is North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (BCEP).

Both groups have written testing and experience requirements for installers to provide consumer protection, Presently eight states license solar system installers.

A key question for DORA: Does potential financial or physical harm to consumers justify state regulation? DORA reviewed complaints over the past five years and found less than half a dozen possibilities of harm from actual installations.

DORA opposed any regulations, quoting SEIA's admission that "Xcel Energy has connected 1,000 solar systems to its power grid" over a recent 18 month period. The DORA review did not note any of those installations appeared to have gone wrong.

There are permits and inspections provided at the local city or county level in most instances during installation. While opposing any regulatory bill at present, DORA recognized that "as demand increases ... market conditions are prime environments for fly-by-night businesses."

In other words, if conditions change, so might DORA's verdict.

(Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.)

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