by Michael Schaus, The Nevada Independent, February 19, 2023
With Nevada ranking as the worst state in the nation for occupational licensing burdens, according to the Institute for Justice, Gov. Joe Lombardo’s recent executive action on the issue was a welcome step toward greater reform.
Now, with a handful of Democratic politicians sharing their own ideas for reducing licensure burdens, it almost seems as if this might finally be a year where some modicum of meaningful progress could actually be made.
There are few policy reforms with the kind of potential bipartisan appeal as that offered by occupational licensing — and yet, Nevada has proven deeply resistant in past sessions to any substantive changes to our worst-in-the-nation regulatory structure. In fact, some of our state’s current licensure requirements are so burdensome as to be downright prohibitive for would-be workers.
A manicurist in Nevada, for example, has to pass three exams, take 600 hours of instruction (for which they must pay out of pocket) and fork over $195 for a license before offering services legally. Emergency Medical Technicians, by comparison, only have to pass two exams, take 150 hours of instruction, and pay a mere $98 before pursuing their chosen occupation.
The notion that a manicurist requires a level of training four times more intensive than someone administering emergency medical aid to a dying patient is absurd on its face — and it highlights the kind of arbitrary regulatory weight placed on ordinary Nevada workers.
As it turns out, there is plenty of evidence that much of our occupational licensure structure in Nevada is little more than bureaucratic box-checking rather than a meaningful guarantee of worker competency and proficiency. Dismantling such onerous administrative bloat doesn’t have to mean sacrificing consumer safety or worker competency — it merely means “trimming the fat” off a licensure structure that places higher burdens on more workers than any other state in the nation.
Indeed, elsewhere throughout the nation, trimming such regulatory burdens has become an increasingly bipartisan endeavor… though not without some struggles. Incumbent businesses and industries often benefit from the protectionist effect of such licensure regimes — which is why there are often powerful lobbying interests working to preserve the status quo.
Given the current landscape of Nevada’s licensure structure, it’s clear that such lobbying interests have a strong presence in Carson City. As a result, any sweeping efforts to upend the state’s overzealous approach to occupational licensing seems unlikely in the current legislative session.
However, the emergence of a few Democratic proposals for reform offers the promise of at least marginal gains moving forward.
State Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) told The Nevada Independent he wants to address the state’s health care provider shortage by making it easier for physicians from other countries to transfer and practice in Nevada. It’s a promising deregulatory effort that is reminiscent of the type of reform other lawmakers have previously discussed for addressing nurse shortages.
In 2021, for example, Republican Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill proposed the “Nurse Licensure Compact,” which would allow nurses from other participating states to work in Nevada without obtaining a Nevada-specific license. The proposal died in committee, despite the workforce challenges faced by hospitals as a result of the pandemic. This year, however, the Nevada Nurses Association has voiced its full support for the proposal, indicating an increased likelihood it might be heard now that the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor has introduced it as Assembly Bill 108.
And it’s not just health care where licensure reform is attracting bipartisan interest.
Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas) sees such deregulatory reform as a way to address some of the challenges facing public education, telling The Nevada Independent that we need to reduce the amount of “red tape” currently involved with becoming a teacher. Torres said she hopes her legislation would help tackle the overwhelming teacher vacancies plaguing southern Nevada by making it easier for aspiring teachers to get certified.
“I think that legislators have the responsibility to ensure that we’re continuing to keep a quality education,” she said. “When we have more vacancies in schools, it makes schools less safe, as well as making it harder for students to learn and grow.”
Her eye towards deregulation as a possible avenue for addressing such vacancies should be taken seriously by her colleagues in the legislature. Certainly, licensure reform alone won’t solve the longstanding issues that have led to teacher vacancies, but streamlining the process for getting clearly qualified individuals into the classroom would be an important first step in recruiting much-needed talent for struggling school districts.
Bipartisan willingness to entertain such reforms marks an emerging consensus that “deregulation” doesn’t have to conjure up the kind of partisan animosities and combative posturing it has in the past. Indeed, as a tool to diversify the economy, provide workers with greater opportunity and solve pesky labor shortages in key industries (both public and private), such deregulation offers serious potential for meaningful bipartisan progress.
After all, when you’re the worst in the nation for burdening workers with licensure requirements, even extremely limited reforms would be a nice departure from the status quo.
Michael Schaus is a communications and branding expert based in Las Vegas, Nevada, and founder of Schaus Creative LLC — an agency dedicated to helping organizations, businesses and activists tell their story and motivate change. He has more than a decade of experience in public affairs commentary, having worked as a news director, columnist, political humorist, and most recently as the director of communications for a public policy think tank. Follow him at SchausCreative.com or on Twitter at @schausmichael.