An Omaha Woman Took Her Business to Iowa Because of Nebraska’s Licensing Laws

Nebraska’s licensing rules literally are driving businesses out of the state.

Take the example of Ilona Holland. She and her husband, Eric, moved to Omaha in 2013. Holland had been a licensed message therapist in Maryland before the move, and after getting settled in Nebraska, she was eager to get back to work, only to discover that she would need an additional 400 hours of classes before she could qualify for a massage therapist license (after taking 600 hours of them to get her Maryland license years earlier).

With a child on the way, Holland knew she couldn’t afford to spend thousands of dollars on the additional schooling. Instead, she decided to use her knowledge of Reiki, a traditional Japanese physiotherapy involving the transfer of energy from one part of the body to another, to start a business. Though Reiki requires touching, it doesn’t resemble massage therapy in any other way—customers remain fully clothed throughout the treatment and there’s no intense rubbing or pressure applied.

Just months after opening her small business, Holland got a visit from the government. Without a massage therapy license, she was told, she would have to shut her doors.

She did. Then she reopened them, on the opposite bank of the Missouri River.

Today, Holland still lives in Omaha, but she runs her business in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where the licensing requirement were less strict. Still, she worries about what could happen if her husband has to relocate for another job.

“If my husband got another job somewhere else, I would have to check and see whether I’d have to go back to school again. I can’t do that, now that I have a second child on the way,” Holland told Reason in a phone interview this week.

Holland and other Nebraska-based entrepreneurs made the case for licensing reform on Tuesday at the state capitol. An effort backed by the Platte Institute, a free market think tank, is encouraging state lawmakers to cut red tape and ease occupational licensing laws, like the one that caused Holland to move her business out-of-state. The group says that one in four workers in Nebraska are subject to mandatory government permission slips.

Licensing is supposed to protect the public’s health and safety, but lawmakers should ask themselves why Holland’s business is apparently not a threat to those things in Iowa–or, before that, in Maryland–but apparently is a danger to Nebraskans.

Read more of this Reason article by Eric Boehm by clicking here.

Photo: Knut Schulz/Westend61 GmbH/Newscom