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AFP-WV Key Vote Alert: Support SB 493: Relating to use of criminal records as disqualification from authorization to practice particular profession

Mar 4, 2024 by AFP

Dear Lawmaker:

On behalf of our activists across West Virginia, I urge you to support Senate Bill 493. This vote may be recorded in our 2024 session legislative scorecard.

AFP, like you, believes Mountaineers deserve the ability to support their families without undue government burdens. While often well-intentioned, many occupational licensing requirements are anti-competitive, needlessly burdensome, and ineffective at addressing public health and safety concerns. Professions would be better served if the training and credentials that guide them were dictated by the demands of consumers and job seekers, giving them freedom to innovate and drive economic growth without rigid one-size-fits-all government requirements. By removing unnecessarily burdensome occupational licensing requirements, legislators can help West Virginia businesses expand their potential employment pool and help Mountaineers establish long-term careers in the state.

Individuals with criminal histories face barriers beyond mere ineligibility to pursue occupational licenses. Like many low-income individuals broadly, this population often lacks the time and financial resources to pursue unnecessary, burdensome licenses even if they are allowed to.

SB 493 would be a step in the right direction towards helping break down the barriers that prevent those with criminal records from pursuing professional careers by improving upon existing law intended to reduce barriers for professional licensure for individuals with qualifying criminal histories. The bill promotes consistency and clarity in the licensing process and allows those reentering society to access meaningful employment more easily. SB 493 still allows the licensing authority to deny a professional license based upon an applicant’s criminal history, but only in the event the person’s prior actions directly and specifically relate to the occupation to ensure the safety and welfare of our communities. For example, while it would make sense to deny a person a license to be a banker if they committed financial fraud two years prior, it is not logical to deny someone a license to be a plumber merely because they were convicted for possessing marijuana five years ago.

We believe that accountability is an essential component of justice, but when someone has fulfilled the debt they owe to our community, they must be permitted to  pursue meaningful employment and to become productive citizens in their communities.  Doing so is a critical component to avoiding criminal recidivism.  The transition from prison and jail can be difficult emotionally, mentally, and practically. For our justice system to succeed in achieving its goal of increased public safety, it must take steps to ensure that those who enter prison or jail return to society with the tools to succeed, making them more likely to remain crime-free in the future and realize their full potential.

It is for these reasons that I ask you to vote “yes” to support Senate Bill 493.

Sincerely,

Jason Huffman

State Director

Americans for Prosperity-West Virginia

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