Unanimous Bipartisan Vote for Bill Aimed at Getting Pennsylvanians Back to Work; Reducing Recidivism
(Harrisburg, PA) — The Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee voted unanimously today in favor of Senate Bill 637, a major occupational licensing overhaul that continues Pennsylvania’s national leadership in criminal justice reform. This workforce development legislation, introduced by a coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, including prime sponsors Senators John DiSanto (R-15) and Judy Schwank (D-11), guarantees that convictions will not automatically preclude the issuance of a license, and individuals with criminal histories would have an occupational license withheld only if their convictions are directly related to said occupation after individualized reviews. Yesterday, more than a dozen advocacy groups from across the political spectrum wrote to the committee in strong support of the legislation.
The legislation is especially critical at a time when more than a quarter of jobs require a license or other form of government permission to work. In Pennsylvania alone, there are 29 boards and commissions regulating 255 different types of licenses and over 1 million licensees. Without Senate Bill 637, many of these jobs are out of reach for justice-involved individuals – even those with minor, low-level offenses.
“The number one way to prevent recidivism and crime is by improving employment and job opportunities for those with criminal histories. While it’s essential that licensing entities consider relevant criminal records, there’s no reason to allow bureaucracy to unnecessarily stand in the way of qualified job seekers who can safely and effectively perform the duties of their chosen occupations,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy Director of Justice Action Network. “Senate Bill 637 will ensure public safety continues to be the priority for state agencies that issues licenses to work, while eliminating unnecessary and irrelevant barriers to receiving a state-issued license. The result is simple: more jobs, more economic prosperity, and less crime. The authors of this bill crafted an extraordinary step forward for Pennsylvanians, their families, and communities, and we look forward to swift approval by the full Senate.”
Representatives Sheryl Delozier (R-88) and Jordan Harris (D-186) filed the companion House Bill 1477, which is pending before the House Judiciary Committee.
Senate Bill 637 ensures:
- Convictions will not automatically preclude the issuance of a license;
- Only those convictions that directly relate to the underlying occupation will be considered by a licensing board;
- 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.