Legislature considers 2023 version of workforce licensing reform

Legislature considers 2023 version of workforce licensing reform

This year marks the fourth consecutive legislative session that the Nebraska Legislature has heard and considered significant workforce licensing reform. The Platte Institute was engaged actively in that topic as early as 2016.

LB16 was introduced by Senator Tom Briese and contains two main elements: universal recognition of licenses from out-of-state and a “fair chance” component, similar to what many states are doing, which limits how broadly those formerly incarcerated can be excluded from state licensure in occupations.

Both elements had been introduced in the 107th Legislature (in two separate bills), then combined by the Government committee, and sent to the floor on a unanimous vote in 2022, but time ran out for it to be fully considered in the 60-day session. This year’s bill is very similar to the bill that exited the committee last year.

Those who have followed Platte’s work in this area over the years may have noticed a change in terminology—we’ve moved from “occupational licensing reform” to “workforce licensing reform.” That’s because ease of licensing is critical in Nebraska’s efforts to address workforce shortages.

At the recent LB16 hearing, we heard from Nick Smith. Nick is a native Nebraskan, who went to college in Texas (for a bachelor’s degree in psychology), then came back to Nebraska to get a Master’s degree in educational administration. He moved back to Texas again and obtained a teaching certificate, where he taught special education and coached sports.

When he returned to Nebraska last year to be closer to family, Lincoln Public Schools wanted to hire him to teach special education—an area administrators sometimes have an even harder time filling than others. Still, he couldn’t get a teaching certificate because of state licensing regulations. Getting a teaching certificate would require a significant amount of time and money in added education for Nick to do a job that he had done successfully in Texas!

Ease of mobility for workers coming (or returning) to Nebraska would increase significantly through LB16, and it also opens opportunities for those leaving military service with a military occupational specialty. We’ve told you about Mike Beyer on many occasions. Mike spent eight years serving his country as a construction electrician but couldn’t take his licensing test to be a journeyman electrician in Nebraska until the Platte Institute told his story and the licensing board looked at his qualifications again.

LB16 is a workforce bill. It will allow employers to recruit skilled workers outside of the state and make it easier for them to be authorized to work in Nebraska. Likewise, it will create opportunities for those who have made mistakes that resulted in incarceration to put those mistakes in the past and work in areas that will allow them to help themselves and contribute to Nebraska’s workforce needs.

Having had an early hearing, we hope LB16 will move through the process and be enacted this year. Follow its progress on the “Take Action” page on the Platte Institute website.

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