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ST. LOUIS (AP) - Two St. Louis hair braiders are challenging the state of Missouri's cosmetology licensing requirements as part of a series of lawsuits coordinated by a national legal foundation.

The Institute for Justice's Braiding Freedom Initiative has won similar legal or legislative challenges in seven other states. The northern Virginia-based group plans to file comparable suits Tuesday in Arkansas and Washington state.

Joba Hair Braiding owner Ndioba Niang says the mandated 3,000 hours of training to obtain a state cosmetology license excludes any preparation in traditional African braiding techniques. She completed 1,000 hours of training before dropping out. Institute lawyers say Missouri requires more training hours for aspiring cosmetologists than emergency medical technicians.

A spokesman for the Missouri Board of Cosmetology and Barber Examiners said the agency doesn't discuss pending litigation.

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