As a companion to the mandatory budget negotiations, legislators have spent the Spring of 2019 looking at another issue dealing with the way the State regulates business. As part of a larger criminal justice effort spearheaded by a group of bipartisan legislators, occupational licensure reform has found the spotlight.
Following a rigorous audit of the Commonwealth’s occupational licensure system in 2018, the Wolf administration has proposed several changes to the current system, including the repeal of 13 mandatory licenses, such as cemetery brokers, auctioneers, and barbers. Over the years, heavy criticism of these antiquated licensure structures has claimed that they create barriers to entering the workforce, put unnecessary burden on employees, and add additional cost that drives up consumer pricing. Along with eliminating these licenses, the administration also supports the elimination of an automatic 10-year ban for drug offenses for certain licenses. Instead, the Governor is calling for a thorough character and fitness review of each applicant, rather than a mandatory, automatic penalty.
The legislature has also joined the effort for licensure reform, pointing to the current structure as a significant setback in criminal justice reform. Senate Bill 637, introduced by Sen. John DiSanto (R-Dauphin), would amend the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) to limit licensing boards and commissions to only withhold licenses for convictions that are related to the license in question. Currently, in many instances, boards and commissions can revoke or refuse a license for any conviction, despite an applicant who has completed necessary training and testing for the anticipated occupation. The legislation would also require boards and commissions to clearly denote how previous offenses could hinder specific occupational license applications.
While the most popular legislation is sometimes the hardest to cross the finish line, it’s safe to say that criminal justice reforms, including changes to the state’s occupational licensure structure, will be coming our way.
June 4, 2019