Not too long ago, removing barriers for Nebraskans through major reforms to job licensing laws was mostly just an idea.
The Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman began to sound the alarm about the growth of occupational licensing in state legislatures over 50 years ago, and for most of that time, the problem became worse as the idea of reform sat in books, collecting dust.
While there were certainly unsung pioneers for licensing reform in communities across the country, the issue did not gain major national attention until 2015, when the Obama Administration published a report calling for states to rein in licensing laws that were making it harder for Americans to create more businesses and better jobs.
When the Nebraska Legislature unanimously passed a bill to eliminate licensing for natural hair braiding by then-Sen. Nicole Fox, I had hopes that lawmakers would begin to question other licensing laws that were excessive.
Since then, the Nebraska Legislature has supported licensing reforms reducing barriers in more than 15 career fields and has adopted one of the country’s first comprehensive licensing review and reform laws.
It’s remarkable how far the state and country have come on this issue over the last four years, as today’s Omaha World-Herald editorial demonstrates. The piece also discusses how changes we’ve worked with many Nebraskans to advance are influencing the way lawmakers look at regulating professions.
We’ve gone from being a state that actually turned away people wanting to come work and start businesses here to being within striking distance of adopting Universal Recognition legislation that welcomes workers from all over the country.
There’s still an enormous amount of work to do, and the debates related to job licensing reform are never as easy as you would expect. But given the many Nebraskans we have had the chance to help in recent years since beginning this effort, I am excited to see how many more opportunities we can create by continuing to move this issue in the right direction.