When Ilona Holland moved to Nebraska from Maryland, she brought her skills as an experienced massage therapist with her and sought to open her own practice. However, the state Board of Massage Therapy told her she needed another 400 hours of training in order to be licensed in Nebraska. Even with years of experience, Ilona would be forced to take more schooling that could cost her thousands of dollars.
Instead, she decided to move her business to Iowa, where the requirements for massage therapy are the same as Maryland.
Stories like this have become all too common in Nebraska. While Ilona was able to use her experience with red tape to motivate lawmakers to introduce reform legislation, many other occupations remain unexamined within thousands of pages of regulation and statutes.
One roadblock to lawmakers in Lincoln offering more solutions to these barriers is that there is no comprehensive tool for the state to evaluate occupational licensing. There is no legal framework that says how the state should compare its licensing laws to others, or what criteria should be used to decide whether a license is necessary, or if regulations could be designed in a less restrictive manner.
Approaching licensing reform piecemeal is also a time-consuming process, and it can be difficult for legislators and regular citizens to gain access to information about specific occupations.
The Platte Institute recently released what may be the most complete report on occupational licensing reform in Nebraska to date. The 2017 Occupational Licensing Review highlights this year’s legislation and advances in reforming licensure in Nebraska. The report, available at PlatteInstitute.org/Jobs, details the status of bills in the Unicameral, along with insights on the support or obstacles the bills have faced.
This review provides tools legislators, researchers, and citizens need in order to ask the necessary questions on the policies that may stand between Nebraskans and their opportunity to work.
During the legislative session, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stressed the importance of asking these questions, encouraging legislators and policymakers to operate under a more comprehensive framework that addresses the necessity, severity, or usefulness of specific licenses.
Legislative Bill 299, supported by the Platte Institute and the Nebraska ACLU, would introduce such a framework into state law. LB299 would require lawmakers to evaluate all the state’s current and proposed occupational licensing under the same set of standards.
By having better guidelines about how job licensing should be approached in the Legislature, policymakers can make sure they are using the right regulatory tools, which solve problems for more Nebraskans, rather than create them.
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