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Andrew Kessel
By Andrew Kessel March 31, 2016

Hanaway isn't exaggerating the extreme length of Missouri's barber code

At the March 17 Republican gubernatorial debate, former Speaker of the Missouri House Catherine Hanaway managed to work barbers and the Bible into the same sentence.

"The barber regulation here in Missouri is 10,000 words long. … The book of Revelation is 10,000 words long. Surely we can tell a barber how many combs to have in fewer words than it takes to describe Armageddon."

What struck us about Hanaway’s claim — other than the relative importance of a barber’s toolkit and Judgment Day — was the sheer volume of regulations. Are there really 10,000 words regulating the people who cut our hair?

Barbers are governed by the Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners, a division of the Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions and Professional Registration.

So, just how long are these regulations? Well, Hanaway could’ve picked something much longer than Revelation. We copied the full statutes and regulations governing barbers and cosmetologists into GoogleDocs and the word count was nearly 60,000. Even after removing the chapters that only apply to cosmetologists, the total is about 40,000. When we ran Revelation through the word count, we came up with about 12,000.

When we dove into all 60,000 words, we found that most of the regulations have to do with licensing and training requirements. In order to work as a barber in Missouri, you have to attend a barber school and earn a license. And in order to teach students to be barbers, schools have to meet certain standards. The rules also cover sanitation codes and apprenticeships.

Splitting hairs

Hanaway said we shouldn’t need so many words to tell a barber how many combs to have. But that’s not exactly what the regulations are for. There is no statute requiring the guy cutting your hair at Supercuts to have at least five combs.

There is one rule that calls for a specific number of combs, but it applies exclusively to barber schools. Schools are required to provide their students with training kits that contain, among other things, at least four combs.

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A little off the top

So why would Hanaway bring up an obscure barber school statute at the gubernatorial debate? It’s not the first time she's mentioned it. In 2015, Hanaway met with Phelps County Republicans and brought up the same 10,000-word figure. Her campaign website even pledges to "Start cutting away at overly long, overly burdensome regulations like the more than 10,000 words regulating our state’s barbers."

We reached out to Hanaway’s campaign about why she chose to highlight barbers and heard back from Will Scharf, policy director of Hanaway for Governor. Scharf called barbers an "instructive example" of over-regulation and part of a larger plan from Hanaway to "institute a moratorium on all new non-emergency regulations" if elected.

Hanaway isn’t alone in her goal of trimming barber regulations, either. In 2013, a bill that would have made earning a license optional for service providers such as barbers and cosmetologists earned support from several Republicans, but ultimately the bill failed to pass.

Scharf told us that Hanaway’s views are separate from that legislation. However, if such a bill were to pass, attending a barber school would be optional and the number of combs in a toolkit made moot.

Our ruling

Hanaway said there are 10,000 words of regulations for barbers in Missouri, the same number that are in the book of Revelation.

The Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners Statutes and Regulations isn’t just as long as the book of Revelation — it’s much longer.

The numbers more than make her point. We rate Hanaway’s statement True.

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Hanaway isn't exaggerating the extreme length of Missouri's barber code

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