Job Licensing Reform Will Make Nebraska The Best Around

With promotions ramping up for a YouTube series that continues the story of the 1980s classic The Karate Kid, it seems like a perfect time to revisit one of the best parts of the original film.

Daniel LaRusso, a new kid in the valley, is expecting for Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate so he can defend himself from local bullies. Instead, Miyagi puts him to work beautifying his home: sanding the floors, painting the fence and house—and unforgettably—waxing a car.

Finally, Daniel-san has had it. In a profanity-laden stream of complaints, he claims Miyagi hasn’t been teaching him, and that he’s not coming back. Just then, Miyagi-sensei commands Daniel-san to show him how he moves his hands in the work he gave him to do—and the student realizes he has been learning karate all along.

Right now, you might be asking yourself, like Daniel-san, what any of this has to do with job licensing reform in Nebraska.

But look at the tasks job licensing reformers have given the Nebraska Legislature in recent years: Exempt hair braiding, de-license car salespeople, massage horse on, massage horse off.

Most people are not hair braiders, car salespeople, or horse massage practitioners. At first, it can seem like a waste of time that the Legislature filed, heard, debated, and advanced bills that make these changes.

But these tasks have done more than cut red tape for people who really are hair braiders, car salespeople, and equine massage practitioners. It has also given lawmakers an understanding of the excesses that often occur with job licensing, and the greater need to review all of the state’s professional licensing policies.

As Legislative Bill 299, the bill to create this new review process, sits only two votes from final passage, lawmakers have dealt with a wide range of questions that have often not been asked on the floor of the Legislature, which the new legislation will prompt committees to ask.

Questions, as with hair braiding, like: Is the Legislature fully aware of the number of occupations that Nebraskans could be practicing, but can’t because of their entanglement with licensing laws for other professions?

As with car salespeople: Has the Legislature considered which job licensing policies exist because of a clear health or safety need, and which are outdated examples of industry lobbying?

And at least two questions emerge with equine massage: Is the Legislature up-to-date on how job licensing requirements may impact workers and consumers in urban and rural communities differently?

Or, as recent floor debate showed: does the Legislature know enough about whether criminal penalties for not complying with job licensing laws are appropriate, or if they may discourage Nebraskans from starting small businesses?

Of course, there will be no training montage to pass the time for the Nebraska Legislature as they apply these questions and the insights that may result. It will take years for the state to become fully proficient in the job licensing reform process.

But the more Nebraska policymakers wax on and off about what can be learned from the small, but important, details of these debates, the more they can hold the Cobra Kais of industry and government at bay when they seek new barriers on working Nebraskans.   

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