New Licensing Regulations Aim to Open Doors for Pennsylvanians with Criminal Records

Pennsylvania Capitol

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of State (DOS) recently announced that the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) approved new regulations designed to reduce barriers for individuals seeking professional and occupational licenses. These changes, while maintaining public safety, could significantly impact those with past criminal convictions.

A Collaborative Effort

The approval process involved multiple steps and drew input from various stakeholders, including the public, legislators, advocacy groups, and DOS professional licensing boards. This collaborative approach aimed to identify which criminal offenses are directly related to specific professions or occupations overseen by the licensing boards.

Key Changes

One major change is that a criminal offense will only be considered relevant to a profession if the conviction occurred within the past five years. This update aims to provide more opportunities for individuals with older convictions to enter professional fields.

“Under these regulations, people with prior criminal convictions will have greater opportunity to enter professional fields,” said Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt. He emphasized that each applicant would still undergo individual assessment to ensure they are qualified for their chosen field.

Background on Act 53

Since the passage of Act 53 of 2020, DOS has worked to standardize how its 29 licensing boards evaluate applicants’ criminal histories. Act 53 required each board to list criminal convictions that could justify denying a license. This transparency means applicants now know in advance which convictions might be obstacles and what they need to demonstrate their qualifications.

Importance of the New Regulations

These new guidelines aim to prevent individuals with unrelated past convictions from being unnecessarily barred from professional practice. This change can help more people reintegrate into the workforce, reducing recidivism and promoting economic stability.

“This process has involved tremendous hard work by hundreds of people who have written and reviewed many rounds of drafts of these regulations,” said BPOA Acting Commissioner Arion Claggett.

Next Steps

The revised regulations, contained in a 241-page document, will now go to the Office of Attorney General for approval. They must also be published in the Pennsylvania Bulletin before taking effect. Secretary Schmidt hopes the final regulations will be published by the end of summer.

Pennsylvania’s Progressive Licensing Reform

This regulatory reform has several broader implications. Firstly, it helps create a more inclusive workforce by giving individuals with past convictions a fair chance at professional licensure. Secondly, it ensures that public safety remains a priority by maintaining rigorous assessments for all applicants.

The Shapiro Administration has shown eagerness to implement this reform, viewing it as a step towards reducing unnecessary barriers to professional practice. By opening doors for more qualified individuals, Pennsylvania can enhance its workforce diversity and support economic growth.

In conclusion, the newly approved licensing regulations mark a significant shift in how Pennsylvania addresses the intersection of criminal history and professional qualifications. By balancing opportunity with public safety, these changes aim to foster a more inclusive and equitable professional landscape in the Commonwealth.

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