Gov. Murphy has conditionally vetoed a unanimously passed bill that would have lifted the requirement in New Jersey that professional hair braiders complete 1,200 hours of training at a beauty school — which costs upward of $17,000 — and suggested that lawmakers consider an amendment that would reduce the required amount of training to 40 to 50 hours.

"I commend the Legislature for taking steps to expand economic opportunities for African American women, immigrants from African and Caribbean countries, and others by easing potentially burdensome licensing requirements that may prevent many from engaging in the practice of hair braiding. … At the same time, it is important to balance opening economic opportunity with maintaining consumer protections," Murphy said in a statement Monday before he sent the bill back to the Legislature.

Murphy proposed that experienced braiders be required to receive 40 hours of training, and said the instruction should be focused on sanitation, decontamination, and infection control. Those new to the trade should obtain 50 hours of training, including styling techniques, he said.

Hair braiding is similar to the beauty culture, barbering, manicuring, and skin-care professions, which are subject to limited regulations that ensure their customers are not harmed, Murphy said.

The bill passed the Legislature last month after several hair braiders teamed up with the nonprofit Institute of Justice, which battles what it sees as government overreach and abuse, to lobby for changes in the licensure law.

Brigitte Nzali, the longtime owner of the African & American Braiding salon in Blackwood, testified at several hearings, saying that hair braiding was cultural, passed on through generations, and that the profession should not be subject to regulation that's overly expensive and restrictive.

The conservative Americans for Prosperity also pushed for lifting the requirements, saying they were anti-business.

Twenty-five other states have enacted such an initiative, and Pennsylvania lawmakers have considered revising that state's hair-braiding regulations.

Nzali said that she understands the need for some regulation and said that 40 hours of training might be appropriate.

"There should be some training for sanitation, and to make sure the sink is clean," she said Monday.  "If there are no rules, people can do anything.  There also should be some training in technique, to teach not to pull the hair too tight, and to do the braiding to keep the hair healthy."

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D., Hudson), who sponsored the bill, said that she plans to meet with her constituents to get their input on the governor's recommendation.  "I'm optimistic and will continue to fight for what's right for my constituents," she said.

McKnight, who wears braids, said that at least 50 braiders testified before lawmakers and said the licensing requirements have forced many of them out of business.

Assembly Bill 3754 also called for the creation of a Hair Braiding Establishment Advisory Committee to look into limited regulations or recommendations on best practices.  But Murphy said that he would prefer that two experienced hair braiders be seated on the Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling.  That board regulates beauty salons and related businesses, and is charged with overseeing hair-braiding shops.

Under his recommendation, the board would be increased from 11 to 13 members.

"The board's current composition does not assure the presence or participation of an individual with hair-braiding expertise.  It would make sense to remedy this shortcoming, particularly given the importance of hair and hair care to communities of color," Murphy said in his statement.