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Individual liberty is a foundational principle for our country. One of the biggest threats to our personal freedoms is the expanded size and scope of government at all levels. Before World War II, government spending in the United States was about 12 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Today, combined federal, state, and local government spending is about 35 percent of GDP. Regulation is another measure of how much government has grown. According to the Mercatus Center at Georgetown University, federal regulation more than doubled between 1970 and 2008.

Unlike the federal government, Nebraska has built a growth-oriented regulatory climate through the years. Forbes ranks Nebraska second best in the nation in this area. The Mercatus Center says Nebraska is first among all states in their fiscal rankings. And CNBC rates us second best nationally for cost of doing business. This climate has helped Nebraska hit 1 million non-farm jobs for three consecutive years. To help create even more opportunity for the people of Nebraska, my team has been rolling back job licensing requirements, speeding up turnaround time on permits and licenses, and urging the federal government to cut red tape.

Job licenses can be a big barrier to opportunity. From major professions to niche jobs, the Legislature and I have been working together to break down those unnecessary barriers. Last year, the Legislature passed and I signed a law to give the spouses of active duty members of the military reciprocity so they can use their professional credential in Nebraska even if they earned it in another state. Earlier this year, the Department of Education and I updated state rules to allow military spouses to use their out-of-state teaching credential during deployment in Nebraska. A few years ago, we eliminated the requirement to get licensed to professionally braid hair. This year, we abolished the requirement to get a professional license to massage animals like horses, cats, and dogs. And we recently got rid of a $20 fee to sell cars in Nebraska.

We have also been speeding up service for licenses and permits issued by state agencies. After changing the application process, nurse licenses are being delivered in 46.5 days on average instead of 96 days, or about 50 percent faster. Our Department of Environmental Quality is making better use of online services, and is now delivering some permits, which are important to construction, in a single day. We have also put the application to renew a conceal carry permit online, so Nebraskans no longer have to travel to a State Patrol office to complete their renewal. All these changes are saving permit holders and the state agency valuable time.

At the federal level, we have been pushing to return power to the states. Federal agencies under President Obama had asserted incredible new levels of control over the private sector with new regulations like the Clean Power Plan and a new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule. Nebraska sued the Obama Administration to stop both these rules. Unlike the last administration, President Trump is listening to and working with the states to help roll back these job-killing regulations. Last year, President Trump announced the repeal of the Clean Power Plan rule. This past week, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a new WOTUS rule that would limit federal oversight of state waterways and returns more oversight to private property owners. Overall, President Trump has significantly limited the growth of federal regulation. Last year, his administration repealed 22 regulations for every new regulation that was approved.

The possibilities for reducing government overreach and cutting red tape are practically endless. We must always be mindful of how government is unnecessarily interfering in the lives of Nebraskans, and find new ways to return power to families and individuals. In the coming years, my team will always be looking for new ways to help create more opportunities for hardworking Nebraskans and to get government out of the way. If you see opportunities to reduce the size and scope of government, I hope you will write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244.

Pete Ricketts is the governor of Nebraska.

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