New law requires licensing boards to stop considering criminal convictions

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HARRISBURG, DAUPHIN COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — Governor Tom Wolf signed Senate Bill 637 Tuesday, removing several barriers that prevented workers with criminal records gain licenses.

“Pennsylvania must be a place where hardworking people can put their skills to work,” Gov. Wolf said in a statement. “Arbitrarily denying someone a job license because of outdated rules against criminal records is wrong. This new bipartisan law is a commonsense way to allow people to pursue the American dream and build a better life in Pennsylvania. It’s good for skilled workers, their employers and the economy for all of us.”

The bill makes the following changes for the 29 occupational licensing boards: 

  • Boards and commissions can no longer use a person’s criminal history to deny someone a license unless their criminal history is directly related to the occupation in which they are seeking licensure.
  • Directs boards to individually consider applications based on the offense, the amount of time since the conviction and the applicant’s personal progress and training, among other factors, before withholding licensure.
  • Requires boards to create a public list of criminal offenses that may prevent licensure.
  • Allows individuals to get a preliminary decision if their conviction is likely to disqualify them from licensure so they do not waste time and money on training. Individuals can still apply and present evidence to support their licensure.
  • Creates temporary licenses in barbering and cosmetology for reentrants trained in a correctional facility who otherwise would be denied a license because of their criminal record. Licensees can work one to two years and demonstrate competency.

Boars cannot consider juvenile convictions or expunged convictions in determining eligibility. They also cannot issue a license to someone convicted of a sexual offense to practice as a health care practitioner.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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