Nebraska: A National Leader in Job Licensing Reform

Nebraska: A National Leader in Job Licensing Reform

Update: LB299 was signed into law on April 23, 2018.

A bill to review Nebraska’s job licensing laws and to remove employment barriers for workers with conviction histories has earned final approval in the Nebraska Legislature. 

State Sen. Laura Ebke’s Legislative Bill 299 passed on Final Reading in Lincoln with 45 votes in support and only one vote against.

While that overwhelming tally may make LB299 sound like a slam dunk, the bill overcame several near-failures before passing, during more than a year of tough opposition from industry and government groups.

Also known as the Occupational Board Reform Act, LB299 requires legislative committees to review 20 percent of licenses under their purview a year, in a continuous five-year cycle.  

This process creates a framework for identifying less restrictive regulations than licensing, including private certification, registration, insurance or bonding requirements, inspections, open market competition, or a combination of these approaches. 

Workers with conviction histories could also receive an advisory opinion from state licensing boards about their eligibility to work in a licensed profession prior to beginning a training program.  

While piecemeal occupational licensing changes have passed in the Nebraska Legislature before, reforms of more burdensome licenses have had trouble advancing from committee. That motivated the Platte Institute to educate lawmakers about the need for a more comprehensive approach.

The Platte Institute testified in support of LB299 in a 2017 legislative hearing and sought to
partner with groups concerned about both the economic freedom and equity issues impacted by job licensing laws.

LB299 received important support from groups including the Institute for Justice, the ACLU of Nebraska, the Foundation for Government Accountability, Americans for Prosperity-Nebraska, and Nebraska Appleseed.

The ACLU of Nebraska joined the Platte Institute for a set of town halls on LB299. State and national media, including the Wall Street Journal editorial board, took note of this collaboration, with that newspaper calling LB299 a model for job licensing reform.

Following this effort, statewide Platte Institute polling found 62 percent of Nebraskans supported a regular job licensing review, including strong majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and independents.      

The dual approach of cutting red tape and reducing recidivism translated into tripartisan support for LB299 in the Nebraska Legislature. Sen. Ebke, a registered Libertarian, was joined in cosponsorship by Republican Sens. John McCollister, Tom Brewer, Dan Watermeier, Mark Kolterman, John Stinner, Brett Lindstrom, Tom Briese, and John Lowe, and Democratic Sen. Justin Wayne. 

Health and Human Services Committee members Sen. Sue Crawford and Sen. Sara Howard, both registered Democrats, also assisted Sen. Ebke with amendments that enabled the bill to reach final passage.

“LB299 was one of the Platte Institute’s top priorities in the 2018 legislative session, because it will help give power back to Nebraskans to cut the hidden tax of red tape that is creating barriers for working people across our state,” said Jim Vokal, Chief Executive Officer of the Platte Institute. 

But the real work is only beginning. Now, the Platte Institute will educate lawmakers and legislative staff about how to use “the LB299 process” as it’s already been called, to remove barriers to economic growth and opportunity.

“While passing this legislation is just the first of many steps, we are eager for lawmakers to begin this important five-year review process,” said Vokal.

The bill now goes to the governor for final consideration.

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