It is often said, and most of us agree, that everyone deserves a second chance.
A pair of bills introduced last month in both the state House and Representatives and Senate would make it easier for people with criminal records to obtain state licenses needed to practice in more than 30 occupational fields, including barbers, cosmetologists, landscape architects, funeral directors, health care providers and several others.
Pennsylvania Senate Bill 637 and House Bill 1477 would require state occupational licensure boards and commissions to apply one common set of rules when considering whether to deny, suspend or revoke a state license on the basis of a criminal conviction.
The bills would amend the Criminal History Record Information Act (CHRIA) to require that state licensing boards only withhold a license for criminal convictions that were directly related to the practice of a particular occupation, and that the boards consider the nature of the offense, the amount of time that has passed since conviction, evidence of the applicant’s fitness to practice a chosen profession and other relevant factors before any decision is made to withhold a license.
The bills could clear a path for people with past criminal records to pursue new career opportunities, including those which could lead to self employment and business ownership. They are gaining bipartisan support in the state legislature.
In a memo to their colleagues, bill sponsors Sen. John DiSanto, R-Dauphin County, and Sen. Judith L. Schwank, D-Berks County, noted that prison inmates often participate in training programs, learning new professional skills while they are incarcerated, only to be denied a license to practice when they are released.
State Reps. Sheryl M. Delozier, R-Cumberland County, and Jordan A. Harris. D-Philadelphia, authors of the House version of the bill, said current licensing restrictions hinder people who have paid their debts to society from re-entering the workforce.
“We simply can’t continue to judge people by their worst day and hold them back from enriching their lives and the lives of others due to mistakes made in the past that have no impact on someone’s ability to do a job,” Harris said.
We could not agree more. Swift approval of these proposals and the governor’s signature will help ensure that those who really do deserve a second chance get one.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher at top newsroom executives. Today’s was written by Digital Editor Dave Hilliard.