Throwing down (the red carpet for workers)

Throwing down (the red carpet for workers)

The Platte Institute has been one of the leaders in advancing the cause of occupational licensing reform since 2017. It took a leap year, February 29, for Nebraska to see the latest reform efforts, with the passage on Final Reading of LB16. Today’s passage represents the fifth year that some version of this bill has been before the legislature, and it (and its predecessors) has had four different primary sponsors. In previous years, the bills have sometimes gotten tied up in committee; in other cases, they advanced to the floor but needed more time for consideration.

Last year, then-Senator Tom Briese introduced the bill as LB16. When he resigned to take an appointment as State Treasurer, one of the bill’s co-sponsors–Senator Danielle Conrad–took up the cause, adopted the bill as her own, prioritized it on the first day of session this year, and shepherded it to passage.

LB16 has two primary components: universal recognition and second chances.

The universal recognition portion of the bill welcomes those with experience in licensed occupations from outside of Nebraska to “come on in.” It eliminates the need for people with experience and who are already licensed in their home states to jump through unnecessary state-specific hoops. The bill also recognizes the training of those with military occupational specialties (MOS) and applies that job training to civilian licensing programs in Nebraska. This will make it easier to recruit individuals and their families to Nebraska. A bill similar to this one in Arizona that went into effect in 2019 has seen over 8,000 new licenses granted in Arizona as new workers have entered their state through these provisions.

The second chances portion of the bill is also related to licensing but removes automatic exclusion from licensed occupations for those who have a discharged conviction record in their past. Many of our licensing statutes currently give great latitude to the licensing boards to determine what “good moral character” means and how it can exclude people who have discharged their debt to society. This bill opens up new opportunities for this population, requiring a nexus between exclusion from licensure and the previous conviction.

The addition of LB16’s provisions to Nebraska’s Occupational Board Reform Act from 2018 arguably gives Nebraska one of the best (if not THE best) occupational licensing frameworks in the country. We now have 1) universal recognition, 2) second chances, and 3) sunset reviews (regular reviews of licensing boards by the legislature, created in 2018’s bill). While there will always be improvements to be made, and provisions that need to be updated, the workforce licensing regime in Nebraska has taken a huge step forward.

LB16 is headed to Governor Pillen’s desk for his signature. This outstanding bill opens up new workforce opportunities for people who might want to come to Nebraska, return to Nebraska after military service, or recognize their past mistakes and want to turn their lives around.


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