A parade of entrepreneurs, sharing struggles they’ve encountered trying to start their businesses, have become the faces of occupational licensure reform in Nebraska.
The masseuse who chose to locate her practice in Council Bluffs, Iowa, rather than Omaha because Nebraska required hundreds more hours of training before she could get her license. The reflexologist who received a cease-and-desist letter from the state after 12 years of working from home.
The list goes on, as these individuals are among the many who have spoken out against what they feel are excessively onerous hurdles to clear in pursuit of their chosen career. Their testimony, alongside a growing body of research, indicates Nebraska has room to ease such regulations.
Occupational licenses are important in many businesses, and consumers must be protected from potentially fraudulent or dangerous situations. But the regulations governing these licenses must do so in a way that doesn’t unduly hinder new people or businesses from entering the field, thereby stifling competition or innovation to protect existing industry.
People with lower incomes, minorities and those who have served time in prison tend to be disproportionately affected by occupational-licensing requirements. The libertarian Institute for Justice’s national report on the topic found vast differences in the number of jobs requiring licenses and what’s needed to obtain a license, varying widely from state to state.
The Nebraska Legislature has recently come out strongly in favor of examining and reducing these burdens. Roughly 200 jobs require occupational licenses, according to the Platte Institute; some of the standards reside in state code, while others are written and governed by industry and trade groups.
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This session alone, senators introduced 23 bills that would have at least some effect on licensure reform or reciprocity agreements with other states. Three have already been signed by Gov. Pete Ricketts, while several others remain alive. The Legislature has also approved eight interim studies on licensing reform to be completed by year’s end, according to The Associated Press.
Such efforts appear to have bipartisan support in Nebraska, too.
The Platte Institute and American Civil Liberties Union are set to soon kick off a joint tour of the state to promote occupational licensure reform. Their partnership illustrates that not all legislation is monolithic and that disparate groups can work together toward a goal that benefits all parties.
Nebraska finds itself in strong position to make meaningful reform to improve the lots of its residents when lawmakers return in January. The political will certainly exists on both sides of the aisle, and reducing the burden for license-seekers — within reason — makes sense for the state.
In this case, less truly is more for Nebraska.