Bills aim to end some special occupational licenses, reduce requirements on others

Bills aim to end some special occupational licenses, reduce requirements on others
World-Herald News Service

LINCOLN — A $20 license to sell cars in Nebraska might be going the way of the Studebaker.

And that would be just fine with Mickey Anderson, a partner in Baxter Auto, an Omaha-based company that runs 16 dealerships in Nebraska. He pointed out that the state requires licenses for the dealerships as well as each of the several hundred sales people the company employs.

The company’s hiring and training standards are more stringent than the state’s, he said. So he views the sales license requirement as a redundant regulation that does nothing to protect the public from an unscrupulous seller.

“The fee for licensing a sales person at this point has become really just a tax for employing a sales person,” he said Tuesday.

Ending that license would be included in a package of eight bills that will be introduced in the Nebraska Legislature in coming days. Five state senators will submit the bills on behalf of Gov. Pete Ricketts

The proposals would eliminate licenses for auto sellers, school bus drivers, cosmeticians and potato shippers. Other bills would reduce the number of classroom hours needed to obtain a license for massage therapists, hair stylists, barbers and nail technicians. Still others would allow Nebraska to recognize nursing licenses obtained in other states.

The governor said Tuesday that unnecessary occupational licenses can stymie job growth and prevent people from improving their career prospects or starting small businesses. He wants to see Nebraska join a growing list of states that ends or lessens the regulations.

“Our concern is that we’re putting up barriers for people to change their careers and be upwardly mobile, and we want to take that out,” he said.

In some cases, the licenses are simply redundant. That’s the case with a state license for bus drivers, which is on top of the requirement that they obtain a commercial drivers license, the governor said.

The bill to eliminate the license would not eliminate the extra training or criminal background checks for bus drivers currently required by school districts and the Nebraska Department of Education, said Taylor Gage, the governor’s spokesman.

Nebraska currently requires licenses for nearly 200 occupations, or almost one-quarter of the workforce. The regulations are intended to benefit consumers by resulting in higher-quality services and safety standards.

A 2015 report by the White House Council of Economic Advisers said unnecessary occupational license requirements can suppress total employment, reduce wages for unlicensed workers and increase consumer prices by as much as 16 percent.

The governor said he has been working with various state agencies to identify the first round of proposed changes to occupational regulations. The effort also has the support of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, an Omaha think tank the governor co-founded before he took office in 2015.

Eliminating the $20 car sellers license would likely cut more than $100,000 from the annual budget of the Motor Vehicle Industry Licensing Board, said Bill Jackson, the board’s director. He speculated that would prompt increases to the fees charged for other licenses.

The purpose of the sellers license, on the books since the 1930s, is to protect the buying public from predatory car dealers, Jackson said.

Applicants who have criminal records must appear before Jackson, who decides whether they may receive a license. Some are rejected, he said.

“There are certain people who you don’t want to have direct dealings with the public,” he said. “Sad, but it’s a fact.”

One of the other bills in the package would reduce the number of classroom hours to become a hair stylist or barber from 2,100 to 1,500. That sounds like a good idea to Zeb Ratcliff, a manager of Garbo’s Salon in Midtown Crossing.

He trained to be a stylist 10 years ago in Texas, which required 1,500 hours of schooling. He worked in the profession for five years before moving to Nebraska, where he had to pay an extra fee and document his years of work experience before he obtained a license, he said.

If cutting the hours puts a cosmetology license within the reach of more people, that’s fine, he said. The profession sees a great deal of turnover, so bringing in more stylists and barbers would help.

“Salon reality is way different than school,” he said. “But anything less than (1,500 hours), I would say, is less than they need to build a career.”

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Proposed rules for Nebraska occupational licenses

Licenses to be eliminated

» Car salesperson

» Cosmetician

» Potato shipper

» School bus driver: Already required to obtain a commercial driver’s license. Additional license seen as duplicative.

Reduced education requirements

» Cosmetologists: Classroom hours cut from 2,100 to 1,500 hours.

» Massage therapists: Classroom hours cut from 1,000 to 500 hours.

» Barbers: Classroom hours cut from 2,100 to 1,500 hours.

» Nail technicians: Classroom hours cut from 300 to not more than 200.

Recognizing licenses obtained in other states

» Nurses: Licenses of military spouses from other states would be recognized. Also allows Nebraska to enter multistate compact to recognize licenses from other states.

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