Reforming Nevada’s burdensome licensing laws could boost employment 8.5 percent, study finds

Robert Fellner

Nevada‘s onerous and burdensome occupational licensing laws are suppressing jobs for low and moderate income professions at a near national-high rate, according to a just-released study.

In Land of the Free? 50 state study on how professional licensing laws lead to fewer jobs, scholars at the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) examined the differences in licensing requirements for 10 low and moderate income professions across the 50 states.

The peer-reviewed analysis found that Nevada’s licensing laws are the 3rd most burdensome nationwide and estimates that Nevada would see an 8.5 percent employment boost if these excessive restrictions were reduced to match the least burdensome state (Hawaii).

One of the most compelling arguments for reform is the arbitrary differences in licensing requirements across the 50 states, with even industry-funded studies unable to find any evidence that harsher licensing requirements provide a public benefit of any kind. In other words, does anyone really believe that requiring Nevada painters to pay a $1,030 licensing fee and spend 1,460 days in an apprenticeship somehow makes Nevada consumers safer or better served than the residents of the 45 other states with less burdensome requirements?

In fact, the driving force behind these laws is the political clout of the special-interest groups who use them as a way to eliminate potential competition — a finding echoed in an earlier study from the White House Council of Economic Advisers, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor.

In addition to reducing employment, oppressive licensing laws have also been shown to increase recidivism. Beyond the devastating harm imposed on the individual, this profound governmental failure also harms society at large, which will ultimately bear the costs associated with an increased prison population.

Given how much Nevadans stand to benefit from reform, it is strange that the Legislature has so far failed to act, despite having had several opportunities to do so.

In 2015, a bill put forth by 12 Assembly members would have restricted licensing to only those professions that posed a clear and substantial risk of physical harm. In other words, no more imposing a $1,500 fee on those who want to be travel guides, or a national-high 2,190 days spent in an apprenticeship for those seeking to be interior designers!

Sadly, that bill died without a hearing.

In 2017, state senator Michael Roberson put forth his own reform bill. But despite committee chair Kelvin Atkinson’s promise that all proposals under his watch would be considered, Roberson’s bill also died without a hearing.

This pattern needs to end in 2019.

By passing occupational licensing reform next session, the Nevada Legislature can boost employment and reduce recidivism while also encouraging the American Dream of entrepreneurship. Lawmakers interested in getting a head start can do so by consulting the model legislation developed by the Institute for Justice.

Robert Fellner

Robert Fellner

Policy Director

Robert Fellner joined the Nevada Policy in December 2013 and currently serves as Policy Director. Robert has written extensively on the issue of transparency in government. He has also developed and directed Nevada Policy’s public-interest litigation strategy, which led to two landmark victories before the Nevada Supreme Court. The first resulted in a decision that expanded the public’s right to access government records, while the second led to expanded taxpayer standing for constitutional challenges in Nevada.

An expert on government compensation and its impact on taxes, Robert has authored multiple studies on public pay and pensions. He has been published in Business Insider,, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Los Angeles Times, the Orange County Register,, the San Diego Union-Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Examiner, and elsewhere.

Robert has lived in Las Vegas since 2005 when he moved to Nevada to become a professional poker player. Robert has had a remarkably successfully poker career including two top 10 World Series of Poker finishes and being ranked #1 in the world at 10/20 Pot-Limit Omaha cash games.

Additionally, his economic analysis on the minimum wage won first place in a 2011 George Mason University essay contest. He also independently organized a successful grassroots media and fundraising effort for a 2012 presidential candidate, before joining the campaign in an official capacity.