- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 10, 2017

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) - Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts will seek to eliminate job-licensing requirements for 20 different occupations this year in an effort to create a more business-friendly environment for the state.

Ricketts said he will call on lawmakers to pass a package of eight bills in his annual State of the State address on Thursday.

The proposals would ease requirements for aspiring cosmetologists, massage therapists, audiologists, car salesmen, potato shippers and school bus drivers, among others. Ricketts said the regulations he’s targeting are generally redundant or more stringent than those in other states, and that eliminating them won’t affect public safety.

The measures take aim at “the barriers that we put up in front of job creators or people who are willing to make changes in their careers, who are seeking upward mobility,” Ricketts said at a news conference Tuesday.

Nebraska licenses about 200 professions, and nearly one-fourth of the state’s workforce holds an occupational license, according to the governor’s office.

The package would reduce the number of training hours required for some licenses and provide credit for experience in lieu of additional education. It also focuses on eliminating duplicative or outdated licenses, and recognizing licenses that are approved by other states.

Jim Vokal, of the Omaha-based Platte Institute, said the proposals chosen are “low-hanging fruit” and eliminating them could make it easier to find a job or start a business. Ricketts worked with the group, which he founded, as well as various state agencies to come up with his list. The Platte Institute has launched a campaign, “Strong Jobs Nebraska,” that features entrepreneurs whose businesses struggled because of state or local regulations.

Existing licensing requirements were put in place for a reason, and some of the new measures are likely to face resistance.

Susan Cap, who owns Academy of Nail Design in Omaha, said legislation to reduce the number of training hours required for nail technicians and nail technology instructors could end up hurting consumers.

Without adequate training, Cap said nail technicians are at risk of using the wrong chemicals or failing to clean pedicure chairs correctly, which could cause customers to develop a nail fungus. She said she has seen some people in a great deal of pain because their nails were handled poorly by “people teaching themselves off of YouTube.”

“It’s a public health risk,” Cap said. “They don’t need to be lowering the (training) hours, they need to increase them.”

Ricketts said that although some of the licensing requirements he’s seeking to lift were put in place for a reason, some of those reasons are outdated and no longer apply.

Sen. Merv Riepe, of Ralston, said the effort could help Nebraska compete more effectively with neighboring states, such as Kansas and Missouri, which have less restrictive rules for professions such as cosmetology.

“We’re committed to making Nebraska even more business friendly and entrepreneurial,” he said.

Newly elected Sen. John Lowe, of Kearney, pointed to one of his first jobs selling cars, where he was forced to pay for a permit. Lowe said the permits are time-consuming and unnecessary.

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Follow Grant Schulte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/GrantSchulte

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