On July 1, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf signed into law an expansive new regulation of the state’s occupational licensing process, giving the agencies that control access to 255 occupations detailed new standards for considering criminal records in the licensing process. Pennsylvania has not addressed these issues on a state-wide basis since the 1970’s, and with proper implementation the new law promises a path to the middle class for skilled individuals whose career prospects might otherwise be limited.
While Pennsylvania’s law is by far the most ambitious one of its kind passed this year, five other states have also passed laws since the beginning of 2020 regulating consideration of criminal record in occupational licensing. Two were states that previously had no general law governing this issue (Idaho and Missouri) and three were states that extended laws passed in recent years (Iowa, Utah and West Virginia).
Pennsylvania’s new law is analyzed in detail below. The provisions of the other five states’ new licensing laws are summarized briefly at the end of the post, and the laws of all six states are written up in greater detail in the relevant state profiles in the Restoration of Rights Project.