Harrisburg—Today the Senate unanimously approved Senator John DiSanto’s (Dauphin/Perry) Senate Bill 637 to extend second chances for rehabilitated individuals seeking meaningful employment, while growing the commonwealth’s skilled workforce.
DiSanto’s legislation, introduced along with his colleague Senator Judy Schwank (Berks), requires state licensing boards and commissions to apply a common set of rules when considering whether to deny, suspend, or revoke an occupational license on the basis of a criminal conviction. The proposal ends the practice of blanket prohibitions on job licenses for certain criminal records and eliminates undefined requirements that applicants present “good moral character.”
Senate Bill 637 provides a new level of transparency by making state boards and commissions publish the convictions they determine to be directly related to the duties, functions, and responsibilities of the occupation and requires individualized assessments of an applicant’s qualifications and fitness to perform the job. The bill also permits individuals unsure if their criminal record would prohibit them from obtaining an occupational license to petition a state licensing entity for a preliminary determination before investing the time and money into a job training program.
“More than 1 in 5 jobs require a government issued license and, too often, qualified applicants are denied the right to work because of an old or irrelevant criminal record,” said DiSanto. “My legislation provides balance and predictability to the occupational licensure process so that rehabilitated citizens have a fair chance to reintegrate into our communities.”
DiSanto continued, “By helping more individuals access state-issued job licenses in their chosen professions we will reduce recidivism and promote economic opportunity at a time our commonwealth is in need of a skilled workforce.”
Senate Bill 637 has considerable bipartisan appeal in the General Assembly as well as a coalition of supportive stakeholders such as the Greater Harrisburg NAACP, the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, Community Legal Services, Americans for Tax Reform, the American Civil Liberties Union, Justice Action Network, and more. The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.
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