A pair of millennial lawmakers in Pennsylvania have introduced legislation they hope will reform government bureaucracy and help residents, including those returning from prison, land jobs.
State Reps. Andrew Lewis and Malcolm Kenyatta announced Tuesday they have filed a bill called The Fighting Chance Act. The proposed legislation, which already has more than 20 co-sponsors, calls on the state’s Board of Probation and Parole and the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs to review their regulations as part of a three-year pilot program.
The aim is to reduce their regulations by at least 25 percent.
Lewis, a Harrisburg Republican, said the bill is modeled after a similar initiative in Virginia. Passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Democratic governor, the measure has already led to the state cutting 1,200 regulations and moving up to fourth in CNBC’s business friendly rankings.
One potential regulation Lewis mentioned that could get axed or reformed is the state requirement for a license to braid hair.
“As newly elected legislators, we believe it’s imperative to reform government so it works for the people,” Lewis said. “Not the other way around.”
Kenyatta, a Philadelphia Democrat, said he appreciated the wide variety of organizations that have announced their support for the bill. That includes the Pennsylvania Working Families Party and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce.
As much as it is a government reform and criminal justice reform bill, Kenyatta said it’s also a jobs bill.
“If somebody has a skill, we need to be removing any barrier from them pursuing that and being a contributing member of our society,” he said.
Jondhi Harrell, executive director for Philadelphia’s Center for Returning Citizens, thanked the bipartisan group of lawmakers for the supporting the bill.
Many prisoners learn valuable skills in the penitentiary system, but unfortunately, they run into obstacles when they try to apply those skills when they return to society. Enabling them to either get jobs or start their own businesses will help reduce recidivism.
“I know firsthand how difficult it is for formerly incarcerated people to attain the licensing that validates the skills they’ve acquired from behind bars,” he said.
Nathan Benefield, vice president for the Commonwealth Foundation, said roughly 20 percent of all the jobs in Pennsylvania require some sort of license, and because of the red tape behind those licenses, the state loses out on about 90,000 jobs.
The Foundation said it’s a double whammy for the state. Not only does it keep the state from adding about $370 million to the economy, but the regulatory burden can also force licensed workers to bump up their prices by as much as 18 percent.
“Those burdens fall primarily on low-income households,” he said. “Those who can’t afford to pay for thousands of hours of training or hire a lawyer to help navigate the regulatory burden.”