Syrita Bowen News, Pennsylvania, Press

Republicans & Democrats Vote to Improve Employment Prospects and Second Chances; Lower Recidivism

(Harrisburg, PA) — The Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted 193-4 in favor of House Bill 1477, a historic occupational licensing overhaul championed by Representatives Sheryl Delozier (R-88) and Jordan Harris (D-186), and unanimously for House Bill 440, a critical bill that builds on the Clean Slate Act to make expungement and clean slate more accessible to those that have been fully pardoned or acquitted, sponsored by Representatives Tedd Nesbit (R-8) and Joanna McClinton (D-191). Both pieces of legislation will break down barriers to employment for individuals impacted by the justice system, ultimately leading to lower recidivism and a stronger workforce in Pennsylvania.

House Bill 1477 ends the practice of automatically denying issuance of a license to those with convictions, while ensuring that licensing boards in Pennsylvania focus their inquiries into convictions that are directly related to the underlying occupation after individualized reviews. A companion bill, Senate Bill 637, championed by Senators John DiSanto (R-15) and Judy Schwank (D-11) passed unanimously in the Senate. This legislation is particularly critical at a time when more than a quarter of jobs require a license or other form of government permission to work.

House Bill 440 saves Pennsylvanians the time and expense necessary to hire an attorney and petition the court to clear their record when they have been fully pardoned or fully acquitted. This legislation will help to further break down barriers to employment that often come with a criminal record, and will allow individuals who have received a rare pardon or full acquittal to truly have a second chance in society.

“From overhauling burdensome occupational licensing bureaucracy to making the expungement process simpler and more effective, today was a remarkable day for criminal justice reform in Pennsylvania,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy Director of Justice Action Network. “At the end of the day, these bills are about three simple things – reduced recidivism, safer communities, and more job opportunities for those that have earned a second chance. We are so grateful for the incredible bipartisan coalition that made today’s votes possible, including legislators from both sides of the aisle who continue to ensure that Pennsylvania remains a leader in smart, data-driven criminal justice reforms.” 

“The bottom line is, folks who have long paid for their mistakes deserve the opportunity to turn their lives around,” said Representative Sheryl Delozier. “As it stands, our current occupational licensing requirements are overly burdensome, broad, and lock countless qualified job candidates out of the market. Our legislation will break down those barriers, reduce red tape, and get government out of the way of individuals looking to turn their lives around for the betterment of themselves, their families, and our communities.”

“Today’s vote is about second chances, job growth, and lower recidivism in my district and across the Commonwealth,” said Representative Jordan Harris. “We know the number one way to lower recidivism and turn folks away from crime is to give them a chance at secure employment and a better life – and that’s exactly what this legislation accomplishes. I’m thrilled to have partnered with Representative Delozier again, as we worked with our colleagues on both sides of the aisle to help give thousands across our Commonwealth a chance to succeed and turn their lives around.”

House Bill 1477 ensures:

  • Convictions will not automatically preclude the issuance of a license;
  • Convictions that directly relate to the underlying occupation will be considered by a licensing board if the applicant can show sufficient rehabilitation;
  • Applicants will receive individual assessments by licensing boards, including the particular facts and circumstances of the crime, the length of time since it occurred, and the grade and seriousness of the crime;
  • Applicants can request preliminary reviews to determine if their criminal record would make them ineligible for a license before undertaking expensive training or education;
  • Boards and commissions will determine and make public the convictions that directly relate to the duties of the occupations they oversee, providing critically needed clarity to potential applicants; and,
  • Blanket prohibitions on licenses for those with certain criminal records will be eliminated from several licensing statutes.

House Bill 400 ensures:

  • Automatic expungement upon full acquittal, no later than 12 months from the date of acquittal;
  • Individuals pardoned fully and unconditionally will have their records sealed under Pennsylvania’s historic “Clean Slate” law.