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State Occupational Licensing Reforms for Workers with Criminal Records

Today, one out of every five Americans needs a license to work while 1 in 3 American adults has a criminal record. Since 2015, 29 states have reformed their occupational licensing laws to make it easier for ex-offenders to find work in state-licensed fields:

  1. Arizona (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  2. Arkansas
  3. California (enacted two reforms in 2018)
  4. Colorado
  5. Connecticut 
  6. Delaware
  7. Florida
  8. Georgia
  9. Illinois (enacted several reforms in 2016 and 2017)
  10. Indiana
  11. Iowa 
  12. Kansas
  13. Kentucky
  14. Louisiana 
  15. Massachusetts
  16. Maryland (enacted reforms in 2018 and 2019)
  17. Mississippi
  18. Nebraska
  19. New Hampshire
  20. New York 
  21. North Carolina
  22. Ohio
  23. Oklahoma (enacted reforms in 2015 and 2019)
  24. Tennessee (enacted reforms in 2016 and 2018)
  25. Texas (enacted several reforms in 2019)
  26. Utah
  27. West Virginia 
  28. Wisconsin
  29. Wyoming

Among those reforms, 14 states allow ex-offenders to petition a licensing board at any time, including before enrolling in any required training, to determine if their record would be disqualifying:

  1. Arizona
  2. Arkansas
  3. Indiana
  4. Mississippi 
  5. Nebraska
  6. New Hampshire
  7. North Carolina
  8. Ohio
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Tennessee
  11. Texas
  12. Utah
  13. West Virginia 
  14. Wisconsin

In a similar vein, both Delaware and Kentucky guarantee applicants a hearing before denial, albeit at a later stage than states with petition processes.

Twelve states generally prevent licensing boards from using vague standards like “good moral character” or “moral turpitude” to deny licenses for ex-offenders:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Illinois
  4. Indiana
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. Mississippi 
  8. North Carolina
  9. Oklahoma
  10. Washington
  11. West Virginia
  12. Wyoming

Likewise, three states—Delaware, Oklahoma, and Wyoming—removed moral character requirements from many of their licenses but did not enact an overarching ban.

Fifteen states ban boards from considering arrests that did not result in a conviction:

  1. Arkansas
  2. California
  3. Colorado
  4. Connecticut
  5. Illinois
  6. Indiana
  7. Kansas
  8. New Mexico
  9. Michigan
  10. Minnesota
  11. New Hampshire
  12. New York
  13. Pennsylvania
  14. Texas
  15. Wisconsin

Seven states have instituted new reporting requirements:

  1. Arizona
  2. California
  3. Florida
  4. Illinois
  5. Maryland
  6. New Hampshire
  7. North Carolina

Eighteen states block licensing boards from denying ex-offenders a license to work, unless the board determines that the applicant’s criminal record is “directly related” to the license sought:

  1. Colorado
  2. Florida
  3. Georgia
  4. Illinois
  5. Indiana
  6. Kansas
  7. Kentucky
  8. Louisiana
  9. Minnesota
  10. Mississippi
  11. New Hampshire
  12. New Mexico
  13. North Carolina
  14. North Dakota
  15. Tennessee
  16. Texas
  17. Washington
  18. Wyoming

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