In bid to license nail technicians, legislator goes outside the norm
HARTFORD — A freshman lawmaker deployed an unusual strategy Tuesday to get a public hearing for her bill to license nail technicians and estheticians in the only state that does not currently do so.
Unable to get a hearing before the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee, state Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, D-West Hartford, staged a pseudo-hearing before the Labor and Public Employees Committee. Eight nail salon and spa owners testified in favor of licensing, as did Gilchrest and state Rep. Robin Comey, D-Branford.
Gilchrest seized the attention of the Labor Committee by proposing a strike-all amendment to an unrelated unemployment bill and suggesting substituting her bill on licensure instead. The ambush surprised Labor Committee members, most of whom responded favorably to the idea of licensure but did not approve of the amendment strategy.
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“We’re actually going to try to figure out how we can best support your efforts in this area,” said Rep. Joshua Hall, D-Hartford, vice chair of the committee.
The proponents of licensure said it would increase the safety of workers and consumers by ensuring that employees have proper training. Rep. Craig Fishbein, R-Wallingford, shared a story of how he received a staph infection after a facial five years ago.
Connecticut has also struggled to control labor law violations in the growing nail and spa industry.
“I think it is very interesting what you have brought to our attention and I think from the reaction I have seen from our committee, you have made your point very well,” said Sen. Julie Kushner, D-Danbury, who chairs the committee.
State Rep. Fred Camillo, R-Greenwich, introduced the bill to license nail technicians and estheticians with Gilchrest. He did not testify at the Labor hearing because he does not support strike-all amendments, he said. But he backs Gilchrest’s efforts to promote the bill.
“I think this should have gotten a public hearing,” said Camillo. “I am very disappointed that it did not.”
Opposition to licensing nail technicians and estheticians is not unusual in Connecticut. Since 1980, when Connecticut stopped requiring manicurists be licensed, more than a dozen bills to revive the regulation have been floated. Most have not received a public hearing.
The lack of state support is a significant factor. Although many workers and business owners in the industry want licensure, the state Department of Public Health said it cannot back the measure because it does not have the resources to oversee a new licensure program.
Gilchrest suggest Tuesday that sexism was behind the repeated dismissal of the legislation.
“As a feminist, I think there is that angle,” she said. “It is an industry most utilized by women.”
She said she may use the same tactic to raise the bill before other legislative committees, too.
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