Two more states regulate consideration of conviction in occupational licensing

Tennessee and Nebraska are the two most recent states to enact laws regulating how a criminal record will be considered in occupational licensing.  Nebraska’s Occupational Board Reform Act (LB 299) was approved by Governor Pete Ricketts on Appril 23, and Tennessee’s Fresh Start Act (SB 2465) was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam on the same day.

The Nebraska law (which does not take effect until July 2019) is a general deregulation of licensing that includes a provision whereby individuals with a criminal record may obtain a preliminary determination of their eligibility from the relevant licensing board, even before they have obtained the necessary training and qualification.  The board must issue a written determination within 90 days giving its “findings of fact and conclusions of law,” and the fee for this determination may not exceed $100.  The individual may include with the preliminary application “additional information about the individual’s current circumstances, including the time since the offense, completion of the criminal sentence, other evidence of rehabilitation, testimonials, employment history, and employment aspirations.”  The board’s decision may be appealed under the state’s administrative procedure act.

Tennessee’s new law (which is effective July 1, 2018) provides for a preliminary determination of eligibility by a licensing board and written reasons for denial. However, unlike the Nebraska law, it also contains a more detailed set of standards and procedures that apply to a board’s consideration whether a conviction is “directly related” to the license, and it also contains a presumption in favor of issuing a license (with certain exceptions). Among other things, the licensing authority “must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that [the applicant’s conviction] is related to the applicable occupation, profession, business, or trade.”

Additional bills laws regulating consideration of conviction in licensing are well along in the legislative process in Kansas and Louisiana, and an enrolled bill is awaiting the governor’s signature in Maryland. We have revised the Tennessee and Nebraska profiles and 50-state charts from the Restoration of Rights Project to reflect the new licensing laws.