House and Senate pass Fresh Start Act

By Aaron Rice
February 12, 2019

The House and Senate have advanced legislation today that will make it easier for ex-offenders to receive occupational licenses and earn a living.

Introduced by Rep. Mark Baker (R-Brandon), House Bill 1284 would prohibit occupational licensing boards from using rules and policies to create blanket bans that prevent ex-offenders from obtaining employment.

Rep. Baker added an amendment on the floor that will require licensing boards to provide information to PEER on how they are going to change statutory requirements.

A companion bill, Senate Bill 2781, introduced by Sen. John Polk (R-Hattiesburg), has also cleared the Senate.

Under the proposed legislation, licensing authorities would no longer be able to use vague terms like “moral turpitude” or “good character” to deny a license.

Rather, they must use a “clear and convincing standard of proof” in determining whether a criminal conviction is cause to be denied a license. This includes nature and seriousness of the crime, passage of time since the conviction, relationship of the crime to the responsibilities of the occupation, and evidence of rehabilitation on the part of the individual.

An individual may request a determination from the licensing authority on whether their criminal record will be disqualifying. If an individual is denied, the board must state the grounds and reasons for the denial. The individual would then have the right to a hearing to challenge the decision, with the burden of proof on the licensing authority.

If this legislation passes, it would provide hope for ex-offenders who want to turn their lives around and learn a trade so that they can better support themselves and their families.


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