Late last year, the Platte Institute announced the Strong Jobs Nebraska campaign, which seeks to make occupational licensing and regulatory reform a greater focus in the Nebraska Legislature. With the help of Nebraska State Senators in all political parties, that goal was realized. This year, lawmakers introduced 12 legislative bills reducing red tape to getting a job or starting a business in Nebraska, which the Platte Institute supported.
One bill, LB299, would have required a thorough review of all the occupational licensing regulation impacting nearly 200 career opportunities in Nebraska, while the rest would reduce or eliminate burdensome licensing requirements for 18 types of jobs.
Now with the legislative session winding down, 3 of the reform bills have won unanimous approval in the Legislature, reducing barriers to entry, licensing compliance, or recognition of out-of-state licenses for 4 different occupations:
- LB140 contained provisions to make licensing optional for executive officers at state-chartered banks. Various types of bank employees who have a responsibility for signing off on transactions are counted as executive officers. One inconsistent aspect of this licensing requirement was that it only applied to banks from Nebraska, meaning two banks on the same street corner could have different requirements to follow.
- Nebraska’s licensing requirement for motor vehicle salespeople will be eliminated later this year with the approval of LB346. In addition to salespeople who work at car dealerships, the annual licensing requirement applies to trailer and motorcycle salespeople. With most states not requiring a license for this job, and car dealerships already holding a separate license, the bill was easily approved by the Legislature.
- Two health care professions are now facing fewer licensing barriers with the passage of LB88. Previously, audiologists needed to have two licenses; one to practice audiology and another to dispense a hearing aid. Now, these hearing professionals can provide hearing aids under their existing professional license. Military spouses, who frequently relocate, will also receive an expedited temporary license if they arrive in Nebraska with a nursing license from another state. By being passed as an emergency measure with the full support of the Legislature and governor, these changes took effect immediately.
Three other licensing reform bills, affecting title examiners, school bus drivers, and horse massage therapists were advanced from committee but were not scheduled for legislative debate in 2017.
And while some bills did not get out of committee, 8 other professions included in the remaining bills were recommended for study by lawmakers in advance of the 2018 session, meaning the legislation can still be brought back next year.
Occupational licensing is a huge labor issue. With the requirements affecting about 1 in 4 workers in Nebraska, there’s still plenty of room for improvement in many more fields than the handful of professions reformed this year.
In March, the Federal Trade Commission recommended senators adopt a framework to evaluate the state’s licensing laws, to determine whether the rules on the books are really needed in the first place, or if less restrictive alternatives may be possible.
Because licensing laws are often supported by existing businesses in an industry, or state entities administering the licenses, there will continue to be resistance to establishing that review process in state law. But the Legislature’s efforts in 2017 assure that occupational licensing reform will be an ongoing part of policymaking in Lincoln for years to come.
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