September 10, 2019 Print

Nebraska is one of many states that have made it difficult to earn a living with burdensome licensure laws that protect entrenched special interests at the expense of both consumers and aspiring entrepreneurs. The Platte Institute in Omaha is playing a central role in reducing these laws and setting precedents that can be used as a regulatory reform model across the United States.

With Platte’s advocacy leading the way, the Nebraska Legislature has adopted licensing reforms for more than fifteen professions, including barbers, cosmetologists, car salesmen, hair braiders, and others. Their efforts are also helping Nebraskans with past criminal convictions find out if they are eligible for licensure before wasting time and money on training. Platte’s signature model legislation has been praised by the Wall Street Journal editorial board as a standard for the nation.

“Being nominated for the Templeton Freedom Award is a great honor for the Platte Institute team, but it would not have been possible without the hard work of so many Nebraskans who put their differences aside to advance the right to make an honest living,” said Jim Vokal, Chief Executive Officer of the Platte Institute. “Nebraskans should be proud that their state is being recognized as a leader in the movement to reform excessive occupational licensing laws.”

In 2016, the Platte Institute became involved in occupational licensing reform by supporting a movement to exempt natural hair braiding from cosmetology licensure. With their help, a reform bill was passed, but nearly 200 other professions in Nebraska still required state licensing, including some occupations not directly identified in state statutes.

Each reduced licensing requirement means new opportunities for everyday Nebraskans to make a living by pursuing their passions. “As noted by the Wall Street Journal, the Platte Institute's efforts to remove barriers to individuals being able to work has set the bar for other states,” said Dr. Lyall Swim, Atlas Network's vice president of training and events. “Key to their success was their ability to effectively tell the stories of those who were being harmed by overly burdensome occupational licensing regimes.”

In 2018, Nebraska adopted the Occupational Board Reform Act, a comprehensive review of all state occupational licensing laws. Each state license must be scrutinized at least once every five years, in order to identify potential regulatory alternatives that would be less restrictive than licensing.

In 2019, the Nebraska Legislature adopted a waiver for first-time occupational licensing fees for many low-income workers, military families, and young people, and more bills to reform or repeal individual licensing requirements have been heard in committee.

Other states are beginning to take notice of "The Nebraska Model" for occupational licensing reform. Under the direction of two former state legislators, both of whom have led the fight for reform, Platte’s leadership is helping to raise national awareness of this challenge. Director of Government Relations Nicole Fox and Senior Fellow for Job Licensing Reform Laura Ebke are working to implement the new laws as well as reach out to other states to create new opportunities for thousands of Americans and increase economic freedom across the United States. 

“Platte Institute's commendable work has cleared the way for untold numbers of Nebraskans whose pursuit of an honest living had been inhibited by licensing restrictions,” said Atlas Network CEO Brad Lips. “Now their success in Nebraska is having ripple effects far beyond state lines.” 

About Platte Institute:
Platte Institute’s mission is to advance policies that remove barriers to growth and opportunity in Nebraska.

About Atlas Network’s 2019 Templeton Freedom Award:
Awarded annually since 2004, Atlas Network’s Templeton Freedom Award is named for the late investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. This prestigious prize honors Sir John’s legacy by recognizing Atlas Network’s partner organizations for exceptional and innovative contributions to the understanding of free enterprise and the advancement of public policies that encourage prosperity, innovation, and human fulfillment. The Templeton Freedom Award is generously supported by Templeton Religion Trust and will be presented during Atlas Network’s Freedom Dinner on Nov. 7 at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. The winning organization will receive a $100,000 prize, and five additional finalists will receive $20,000 prizes.

The finalists for Atlas Network’s 2019 Templeton Freedom Award are:

For media inquiries about the 2019 Templeton Freedom Award, contact Melissa Mann at melissa.mann@atlasnetwork.org or (202) 449-8441.                               

About Atlas Network:
Atlas Network increases opportunity and prosperity by strengthening a global network of independent civil society organizations that promote individual freedom and remove barriers to human flourishing.