New law eases licensure for certain professions

Staff Writer

State Rep. Zack Taylor (R-Seminole) today commented on a new law that will give people with felonies on their records the opportunity to seek occupational licensing for a number of professions as long as the crimes are not violent or sexual in nature.

Taylor was the author of House Bill 1373, known as “Fresh Start,” which takes effect Nov. 1. The measure reforms occupational licensure in conjunction with criminal justice reform.

“This will give people that have made mistakes in their past a second chance at professional licensing,” Taylor said. “This doesn’t hide a person’s criminal record or require a business to hire them, but it does remove the barrier of restrictive licensing in many cases.”

Taylor said his effort is aimed at helping reduce Oklahoma’s incarceration rate in a way that still protects public safety. The law applies to most licensed trades, he said.

Previously, state law was vague in the matter of 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 for a particular occupation, 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.

The bill passed the House on final reading by a vote of 90-2 and the state Senate by a vote of 42-0 before being signed into law by Gov. Stitt.

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