LINCOLN, Neb. — A bill that would require lawmakers to review job-licensing requirements every five years drew support Wednesday from Nebraska legislators, overcoming previous opposition.
The measure is part of a broader national push to reduce licensing restrictions. On average, each state has about 90 licensed professions, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, but in Nebraska there are around 200 licensed professions, ranging from potato shippers and bus drivers to dentists and teachers.
Requirements have risen over the last 60 years from about one in every 20 jobs requiring a license, to nearly one in every four professions today that are licensed.
Sen. Laura Ebke, of Crete, said the bill would mandate lawmakers to review all job-licensing requirements once every five years in an effort to reduce barriers to employment and promote market competition.
Ebke said lawmakers would still be able to create, delete any licenses as they have in the past.
“While this bill has the potential to change many things, by itself, it does not,” she said. “What this bill does is creates a structure for review.”
The measure would also allow people with criminal records to determine if their background would prohibit them from qualifying for a license before they complete any required schooling or certification. Ebke said that people now are unable to tell if their criminal history will bar them from a certain license, which prevents them from seeking out careers that require licenses. The measure would also allow them petition the decision if they are denied.
The ACLU found over 50 professions with licensing barriers for people with criminal convictions, ranging from barbers to child-care providers. Supporters said the bill gives a second chance to criminal offenders and could help their rehabilitation by creating more employment opportunities.
The measure received support from both right-leaning organizations such as the Platte Institute to typically left-aligned groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska.
The measure won endorsements from several senators who previously opposed it because of concerns about the impact on health care professions. Senators said in February they were worried the bill’s focus on economic opportunity and market competition would supersede the industry’s standard of health, wellness and safety. The bill stalled during debate last month, and Ebke pulled it from the floor to work on revisions.
In recent years, the Nebraska Legislature has taken action to reduce licensing requirements for several professions, including car salesmen and hair braiders. A bill to reduce licensing requirements for horse massage therapists is under consideration.
Other states have also introduced legislation to scale down on requirements, including measures that allow for relaxed licensing requirements across state lines for military family members.
The bill advanced 31-0 to the second of three required votes.