Syrita Bowen News, Pennsylvania, Press

Bipartisan Vote to Get Pennsylvanians Back to Work; Reduce Recidivism

(Harrisburg, PA) — Today, the Pennsylvania State Senate voted unanimously in favor of Senate Bill 637, a major occupational licensing overhaul championed by Senator John DiSanto (R-15) that will get Pennsylvanians back to work while reducing recidivism. This historic legislation was introduced by a coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, including prime sponsors Senators DiSanto and Senator Judy Schwank (D-11). The bill 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 directlyrelated to the underlying occupation after individualized reviews.

Representatives Sheryl Delozier (R-88) and Jordan Harris (D-186) filed companion legislation – House Bill 1477 – in the House, which is pending before the House Judiciary Committee.

At a time when more than a quarter of jobs require a license or other form of government permission to work, Pennsylvania is leading the way towards reducing the red tape holding individuals back from seeking these critical licenses. 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 on their records.

“For far too long, individuals with minor convictions have been locked out of a major segment of the job market due to burdensome occupational licensing laws and a draconian criminal justice system,” said Jenna Moll, Deputy Director of Justice Action Network. “With the overwhelming passage of Senate Bill 637, the Senate is opening the doors of opportunity to thousands of people in the Commonwealth, getting people back to work, and ultimately lowering recidivism and creating safer communities. I’d like to thank our criminal justice champions in the Senate, including Senators DiSanto and Schwank, for their steadfast support for smart on crime policies and look forward to seeing this legislation move forward in the House.” 

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.