More states facilitating licensing for people with a criminal record
Last week we posted a description of a detailed new Indiana law regulating consideration of conviction in occupational and professional licensure throughout the state. It now appears that this may represent a trend, as eight additional states have either recently enacted or are poised to enact similarly progressive occupational licensing schemes. New general laws regulating licensure are in place in Arizona, Illinois, and Massachusetts. Similar bills have been enrolled and are on the governor’s desk for signature in Kansas, Maryland, Nebraska, and Tennessee. Arizona’s new 2018 licensing law follows on another law passed in that state in 2017 that authorized provisional licenses for individuals with a criminal record. Massachusett’s new licensing law is part of a more general criminal justice reform bill. Delaware and Connecticut have also recently loosened restrictions on licensing for cosmetology and related professions.
The licensing reforms in these states – and in several other states where licensing bills are less far along toward enactment — seem to have been influenced by a model law proposed by the Institute for Justice, a libertarian public interest law firm. Key features of the Model Occupational Licensing Review Act as they affect individuals with criminal records are 1) to provide individuals with an opportunity to seek a preliminary determination from the licensing agency as to whether their criminal record will be disqualifying; 2) to require licensing agencies to disqualify only if an applicant has been convicted of a felony or violent misdemeanor, and if the agency determines that “the state has an important interest in protecting public safety that is superior to the individual’s right to pursue a lawful occupation”; and 3) to require each agency to publish a report annually on the number of applicants with a criminal record seeking a license, the number of approvals and denials, and the type of offenses for each type of action. Disqualification is justified under this model law only if the conviction is “substantially related to the state’s interest in protecting public safety,” and the individual will be “more likely to reoffend by having the license than by not having the license.”
The federal government is also encouraging licensing reform: the U.S. Department of Labor is supporting a three-year project to assist states improve their general policies and practices related to occupational licensing, including those that affect persons with a criminal record. The project brings together 11 states to participate in the Occupational Licensing Learning Consortium. The 11 states are Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Utah and Wisconsin.
We are monitoring this legislative trend and will revise the state profiles and other materials in the Restoration of Rights Project as new laws are enacted.
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