Monday, March 04, 2019

"Fresh Start" bill passes House, eases workforce re-entry for some felons

Legislation Eases Licensure for Certain Professions

OKLAHOMA CITY – State Rep. Zack Taylor, R-Seminole, today commented on the passage of a bill that will give people with felonies on their records the opportunity to still seek occupational licensing for certain professions as long as the crimes are not violent or sexual in nature. The bill accomplishes occupational licensure reform in conjunction with criminal justice reform.

House Bill 1373, known as “Fresh Start,” passed the House by a vote of 96-2. It now moves to the state Senate.

“This allows people who have made some mistakes to still be able to re-enter the work force, to take care of themselves and their families and to contribute to their communities,” Taylor said. “This also helps reduce the chance that people who have paid their debt to society will end up back in prison.”

Taylor said his effort is aimed at helping reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration rate in a way that still protects public safety.

Current state law is vague when it comes to occupational licenses, requiring that applicants be “of good moral character or have not been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude.” HB 1373 requires the state entity charged with oversight of occupational licensure to explicitly list the specific criminal records that would disqualify an applicant, and allows for denial of licensure only for a conviction of a crime that substantially relates to the practice of that occupation and poses a reasonable threat to public safety.

The measure also specifies that disqualification for a criminal conviction may last for a period no longer than five years, as long as the crime is not violent or sexual in nature and there have been no convictions within that five-year period.

A similar measure passed the House last year but was not heard in the Senate.


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