Moss, Iden bills expand employment opportunities for reformed citizens

Legislation would end occupational license denials solely based on criminal history

LANSING — Sen. Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield) and Rep. Brandt Iden (R-Oshtemo Twp.) have introduced bipartisan legislation to reform state occupational licensing laws that discriminate against citizens with past criminal convictions.

If passed, the bills would expand opportunity for residents with criminal records to find employment by not allowing the state’s licensing boards and agencies to include an individual’s past criminal conviction, in and of itself, during their initial review process. The boards would also be unable to reference prior convictions as conclusive proof when they evaluate an individual’s lack of good moral character — and deny them an occupational license.

“If we want Michigan’s criminal justice system to rehabilitate offenders, then we must be committed to giving those who have been rehabilitated a fair shot to compete in Michigan’s economy, otherwise there is no actual justice in our system,” Sen. Moss said. “When someone has paid their debt to society, they deserve a chance to find a job and become productive members of our community without additional, predisposed barriers or prejudice to their employment.”

The bill package would update a 1974 law that has allowed state licensing boards and agencies to consider an applicant’s certificate of employability by requiring other factors be considered, such as how long ago the offense occurred, other evidence of rehabilitation, testimonials, employment history and employment aspirations.

The legislation also addresses critical staffing shortages in the skilled trades by allowing those who have graduated from the Department of Corrections Vocational Village program — which helps prisoners develop competence in the skilled trades — to find work after their detention. There are currently three Vocational Villages in Michigan.

“To continue moving Michigan’s economy forward, we need to welcome everyone who is ready, willing, and able to join the workforce,” Rep. Iden said. “Many individuals with criminal records have served their sentence, rehabilitated themselves, and acquired the necessary skills for a successful career. Our laws should encourage workforce entry, not prohibit it, and I believe this package is a great step in that direction.”

Sen. Moss’s bill in the package is Senate Bill 293.

The House Bills —  4488, 4489, 4490, 4491, 4492 and 4493 — have been introduced by Reps. Iden, Joseph Bellino (R-Monroe), Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton), Beth Griffin (R-Mattawan), Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) and Rebekah Warren (D-Ann Arbor), respectively – and have been referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee.

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