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Workers Welcome: Nebraska Legislators Cut Red Tape with Universal Recognition

February 29, 2024

Today, the Nebraska legislature approved a sweeping licensing reform designed to help hardworking professionals get to work faster by universally recognizing out-of-state occupational licenses.

Building on landmark legislation first passed in Arizona in 2019, Legislative Bill 16 provides for the streamlined licensing of skilled workers and includes additional elements of the Breaking Down Barriers to Work Act. The Goldwater Institute was pleased to work alongside Nebraska’s Platte Institute and the Institute for Justice to educate lawmakers on the need for this critical reform.

If signed into law, LB 16 would allow an individual to apply for and be approved for an occupational license based on the out-of-state training or testing he or she has already completed. If an applicant has held a similar license in good standing for at least one year, they are eligible to apply for recognition. This vital reform will save applicants time and money and encourage a more seamless transition into the workforce.

Once law, LB 16 will be a huge win for the state’s workers, families, and employers. In Arizona alone, over 9,000  workers have been safely licensed through universal recognition since 2019. This includes thousands of contractors and tradesmen, hundreds of doctors and physician assistances, and numerous other professionals across a wide range of fields. In addition to making it easier for skilled workers to pursue their careers in Arizona, it is estimated that this reform alone will generate $1.5 billion in additional GDP over 10 years.

LB 16 has been many years in the making, with efforts to advance universal recognition in Nebraska quickly following Arizona’s landmark reform in 2019. Commenting on the impact of the years-long effort, the Platte Institute’s Laura Ebke noted that, “The Platte Institute began working to reform Nebraska’s workforce licensing regime with the passage of LB299 in 2018. Since then, four senators have worked with us to add the components of LB16 to the Occupational Board Reform Act. This is a huge step toward reducing barriers for those who might want to make Nebraska their home, making it easier for those with incarceration records to build better lives and continuing to find common-sense ways to reduce barriers to gainful employment through continued occupational licensing review. We’re grateful to all our legislative and organizational partners in this effort over the years.”

Nebraska’s reform also wisely creates a pathway to licensure for workers who may be coming from states where a similar license was not required in order to work in the same field. This is an especially important addition because it is estimated that fewer than 50 occupations are licensed in all 50 states. This piece of the reform puzzle will prevent workers from being punished because state regulators may approach different occupations in different ways.

In addition to these important elements, LB 16 also provides regulatory relief for workers with criminal histories, requiring licensing entities to provide clarity about licensing regulations that could impede entry into the workforce based on specific backgrounds. This will allow workers to have a better understanding of what occupations they can pursue when reentering the workforce.

The Goldwater Institute was pleased to work alongside many of the champions of this important reform and congratulates them all, including Sen. Danielle Conrad, the Platte Institute, the Institute for Justice, ACLU-Nebraska, and RISE. The Institute applauds the Nebraska legislature for its decisive action in support of America’s workforce and encourages policymakers everywhere to consider this important reform.

Legislative Bill 16 now awaits the signature of Gov. Jim Pillen.

Heather Curry is the Director of Strategic Engagement at the Goldwater Institute.



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