Hoping to reduce recidivism rates and help convicted felons find work, Michigan State Rep. Brandt Iden pushed his proposed legislation to scale back occupational licensing restrictions Tuesday before a House committee.
“Everyone deserves to be considered by their skills and qualifications, especially when there is plenty of work to go around,” Iden, R-Oshtemo Township, said. “Michigan currently has more job openings than able-bodied workers to fill them. We need to stop restricting the ability of qualified Michiganders from entering the workforce and we should be encouraging rehabilitated individuals to pursue meaningful employment.”
Iden’s legislation, H.B. 4488, more clearly defines the “good moral character” metric that allows eligible former convicts to work in occupations in which they otherwise would be barred. The standard is currently undefined and can be implemented broadly.
Under Iden's bill, a licensing board or an agency would be prohibited from using a judgment from a civil action as evidence of good moral character and from using a criminal conviction in and of itself as the standard.
In addition to a conviction, several other criteria are required for a person to be barred from employment. The person would have to be convicted of a felony that is codified as disqualifying for a specific occupation, and the board or agency would have to conclude that the person’s conviction has a negative impact on that person’s ability to perform the specific job. The board or agency must also prove that barring the person from employment is in the public interest for public safety purposes.
Licensing boards are currently required to consider a person’s certificate of employability, but the legislation would expand this provision to require the board to consider other aspects of his or her circumstances. This includes the length of time since the crime, evidence of rehabilitation, and whether he or she completed his sentence, among other things.
“Simply put, these reforms are the first step to leading the way to a better Michigan,” Iden said. “This policy will result in lower recidivism rates and higher workforce participation.”
According to a news release from Iden’s office, one-third of American adults have a criminal conviction, which can prevent them from some being considered for some jobs. In 2014, employment barriers created higher national unemployment and cost the national economy at least $78 million, according to the release.
The bill was introduced in late April and currently sits in front of the House Committee on Regulatory Reform. It must pass through the committee before it can receive a vote in the House.