Nebraska’s Licensing Challenges Continue

Nebraska’s Licensing Challenges Continue

As the glow of Nebraska’s annual Spring Game leads to dreams of hearing “We’re Number 1” at Memorial Stadium, there is one area of policy where Nebraska is “number one” in our conference/region—but being number one is not a good thing. 

The Archbridge Institute recently released its first State Occupational Licensing Index, and Nebraska’s position is precarious compared to our bordering states. 

Archbridge’s index scores all states on a scale of 1-10 in two areas: barriers and licensing requirements. A lower score means that there are fewer barriers to entry into an occupation and fewer state requirements for being able to practice legally.  

Nebraska  5.69  5.56  5.63  1/1 
Kansas  0  2.22  1.11  5/7 
Iowa  5.08  4.92  5  2/2 
Colorado  1.08  1.11  1.1  6/4 
Missouri  .62  3.49  2.05  4/6 
South Dakota  3.08  3.02  3.05  3/3 
Wyoming  .77  0  .385  7/5 


In this index, our neighbors in Kansas come out as the best licensing environment not only among Nebraska’s neighbors, (with the lowest barrier score), but also as the best in the country. Nationwide, Nebraska’s neighbors rank 51st (Kansas), 50th (Missouri), 49th (Wyoming), 47th (Colorado), 39th (South Dakota), and 26th (Iowa). Nebraska comes in at the 22nd most burdensome state in the country for licensing barriers. 

While licensing can’t be blamed for all of Nebraska’s workforce challenges, in the highly competitive job market we have today, it seems that, among other things, policymakers ought to consider whether our policies are putting us at a competitive disadvantage among similarly situated states.  

The Platte Institute has been at the forefront of reducing work barriers in Nebraska. In 2016 we helped reduce barriers for natural hair braiders; in 2018, we worked to pass LB299, which requires committees of the Legislature to review licensing statutes under their jurisdiction regularly. Those reviews have led to several licenses being eliminated. 

In the last few years, we have focused our work on so-called “universal recognition”—a way for us to reduce barriers to licensure for those skilled workers with experience and licensure in other states who would like to come to Nebraska to work. Too often, state licensing regulations make it difficult for someone licensed in another state to meet another state’s initial licensing requirements, which in many occupations are inconsistent around the country.  

Universal recognition focuses on the scope of practice, assuming that if you were allowed to do x, y, and z in your previous state (and have done it safely), you should be able to do x, y, and z in your new state, regardless of the differences in initial licensing requirements. 

Nebraska’s neighboring states, as listed above—save for Wyoming—have all initiated a broad universal recognition framework and are open for business to experienced workers from around the country.  

Another workforce challenge that crosses over into criminal justice reform is “second chance” legislation.  Second-chance legislation in the workforce licensing arena makes it easier for those who have completed their court-imposed punishment (including any probation or time of parole) to look ahead to a productive career. 

Because about 1 in 5 jobs in Nebraska require some sort of state license, barriers for those with records can prevent repentant individuals from making real changes in their lives. A number of academic research pieces over the last 20 years have suggested that good jobs post-release can reduce recidivism (return to crime and prison). Common sense also suggests that good jobs and reduced recidivism can help families avoid poverty and eliminate generational cycles of crime.  

While most of us believe that there should be some limits on licensing for certain occupations, second chances legislation around the country has two goals: limiting how long a past mistake can be held against someone who has paid their debt to society and seeing to it that there is a rational basis for exclusion from licensing based on the relationship of the crime to the occupation. Too many licensing statutes have so-called “moral turpitude” or “good character” clauses that allow licensing boards to deny individuals with a record the opportunity to obtain a license, even when the crime and the proposed occupation have no relationship. 

This year’s bill, LB16, would provide both broad universal recognition of licenses from out-of-state and military experience but would also provide second chances for those who have been released from their obligation to the criminal justice system.  

LB16 was advanced to General File in mid-March, without a priority designation. Take Action here, and email your senator (found here) to let them know you’d like to see them find a way to advance this bill.  

Nebraska can be Number 1 in opportunity instead of Number 1 in barriers to opportunity!

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