Government Military and Veterans Affairs

Occupational licensure bill amended, advanced

Senators broadened an occupational licensure bill to add creation of a professional registry for interior designers before giving the measure second-round approval Jan. 30.

Sen. Danielle Conrad
Sen. Danielle Conrad

LB16, originally introduced last year by former Albion Sen. Tom Briese, was taken up this session by Sen. Danielle Conrad of Lincoln and would provide broad reciprocal licensure for military members, apprentices and individuals who are licensed in other states, provided they meet a number of criteria.

Among other provisions, the bill would require that applicants for reciprocal licensure must:
• have held their credential for at least a year;
• hold a credential that covers a similar scope of practice, as determined by the licensing board;
• not have a disqualifying criminal record, as determined by the licensing board;
• not have had their credential surrendered or revoked for negligence or misconduct; and
• not have an open complaint or investigation in any other jurisdiction related to unprofessional conduct or an alleged crime.

LB16 also would add two members to the State Electrical Board and allow individuals with criminal convictions to provide additional information regarding mitigating factors when submitting an application for licensure, government certification or state recognition of their qualifications.

Gordon Sen. Tom Brewer brought an amendment on select file to add amended provisions of his LB471, which would establish a voluntary registry of interior design professionals in Nebraska.

Brewer, chairperson of the Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, said the proposal has been introduced in various forms for several years. His amendment was the result of work during the last interim that brought designers and representatives of the state’s engineers and architects to an agreement, he said.

“In that [first] meeting, I was very vocal in letting them know that my patience had run out and it was time to come to a solution,” Brewer said.

Beginning Jan. 1, 2025, registrants would be issued a seal by the state treasurer, which would constitute certification that any work done was by the registrant or under their control. Registrants would be required to have passed a technical examination as required by the Council for Interior Design Qualification.

Among other documents, registrants could provide schematics, plans, drawings and other diagnostics for the features of a registered interior design project. They could not engage in alteration of structural elements, including exteriors and rooftop construction, or work that involves mechanical, HVAC or fire safety systems.

Brewer said similar legislation has passed in several other states, including Iowa and Minnesota, without any negative impact to public safety.

“This is simply giving interior designers an opportunity to have a certification to use in their work,” Brewer said. “This amendment is a safe, proven proposal.”

Sen. Megan Hunt of Omaha supported the amendment, which she said addresses a “labor of love” that she has worked on for four years. Interior design is more than “just paint and pillows,” she said, and obtaining professional recognition for the state’s more than 300 design firms — most of which are women-owned — is important for Nebraska’s economy.

“These are entrepreneurs who are running small businesses, who are really going to benefit from this amendment,” Hunt said, “and it’s going to keep them in our state.”

Brainard Sen. Bruce Bostelman also spoke in support of the amendment and the underlying bill. He agreed that the registry would not compromise public safety, as long as Nebraskans are educated about the clear guidelines contained in the measure requiring an engineer or architect to sign off on any structural changes contained in a plan.

“Sometimes, in our smaller communities, they don’t realize that,” Bostelman said.

Following the 34-1 adoption of the Brewer amendment, lawmakers advanced LB16 to final reading by voice vote.

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