Something remarkable is happening in the Nebraska Legislature. Registered Democrats, Republicans, and Libertarians are all finding they can agree that Nebraska’s system of occupational licensing is getting in the way of creating better-paying jobs, and is in need of reform.
Our state could use such a nonpartisan breakthrough right now, especially in the face of our challenges with corn, cattle, ConAgra and Cabela’s. Over the last decade, Nebraska ranked below the national average in job creation and population growth. Fewer new businesses are starting in Nebraska than in rival states gaining income and population at our expense, and a workforce shortage holds us back from our full potential.
Burdensome occupational licensing requirements make all these problems worse.
Of course, some careers — like Emergency Medical Technicians who work in life or death situations every day — will always require licensing. But many jobs that assume far less risk are encumbered by much more red tape.
In the 2016 legislative session, lawmakers began to approach this issue by voting 42-0 for Sen. Nicole Fox’s Legislative Bill 898, enabling Nebraskans to provide natural hair braiding services without acquiring a cosmetology license.
But nearly 200 different jobs in Nebraska still require a government license. Oftentimes, licensing for these professions provide no benefits for public safety and only reduce opportunities for Nebraskans to work and start businesses.
Some of Nebraska’s expensive and lengthy requirements for licensing are also among the country’s worst.
For example, Nebraska is one of only six states requiring a license for title examiners.
According to the Institute for Justice, for some reason, Nebraska is the only state that requires two years of experience to be licensed to start a bill collector agency.
In most states, licensed cosmetologists or barbers need about 1,500 classroom hours of training. But in Nebraska, 2,100 hours are required.
Massage therapists in Nebraska need 1,000 hours, while most states require 500-700.
We’re actually keeping people out of massage therapy in Nebraska, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports it’s a quickly-growing profession that can pay a solid, middle class wage.
These red tape regulations are creating barriers to growing the state’s population and workforce, too.
A qualified professional may find their training from another state is considered incomplete here, discouraging relocation, or pulling them out of the workforce. Many Nebraskans who have the ability to work in these fields may also be unable to because they cannot afford the cost of licensing.
Having fewer entrepreneurs means less competition, fewer new jobs, and higher prices for the services we buy.
To remove these barriers to the Good Life and to help reward hard work in our state, the Platte Institute will share the stories of Nebraskans facing these obstacles in our new Strong Jobs Nebraska campaign (join the campaign here).
With policymakers of every stripe recognizing the need for reform, now is a great time to put forward a plan to bolster economic growth in a way nearly everyone in Nebraska can get behind.
Here are the highlights of what we’re proposing with Strong Jobs Nebraska:
1. Let’s make Nebraska’s job licensing requirements consistent with at least our most reasonable neighboring states. And if we can do better, we should.
2. Let’s recognize more licensing and work experience from out-of-state. Nebraska should be the best place to start a career or a business, and we can’t make that claim when people are turned away from work opportunities.
3. Let’s cut the red tape by finding alternatives to licensing when possible, and have more regular review and sunsets on regulations that are costing us jobs.
Rather than putting people out of work, we should use the least restrictive approach that balances the essential needs of health and safety with protecting competition and entrepreneurship. It is also important that people know occupational licensing is not the only tool available to protect the public.
Business registration may be an appropriate alternative in many cases, while in others, insurance requirements or inspections may be sufficient.
By sharing the stories of Nebraskans experiencing barriers to work and entrepreneurship, we can engage professionals, their customers, and their communities to build a statewide coalition to make Occupational Licensing Reform a reality in Nebraska.
Sign our petition and tell the Legislature to Let Nebraskans Work!