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Bill would ease requirements for returning felons to obtain occupational licenses

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Rep. Kevin Chambliss

Rep. Kevin Chambliss

Released felons would have an easier time qualifying for an occupational license under a bipartisan criminal reform measure that has been filed in the Florida House.

Rep. Kevin Chambliss, D-Miami, filed HB 87 on September 13. Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood and chair of the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, is a co-sponsor.

Scott Plakon

Rep. Scott Plakon

The measure would allow certain applicants to qualify for an occupational license two years after a conviction instead of the current five years and would remove a “good moral character” requirement for some occupational licenses. The measure would also require inmate vocational training programs to count as credit toward certain occupational licenses. If it were to become law, the measure would largely affect the construction and electrical trades, according to the sponsors.

In a statement, Chambliss said some occupational licensing requirements are “exceptionally prohibitive and arbitrary.”

“The goal is to allow all members of our community equitable access and opportunity to enter new industries or expand their business, especially those re-entering society and looking to set a foundation for themselves and their families,” Chambliss said.

The Southern Poverty Law Center issued a statement heralding the measure.

“If someone works to rehabilitate themselves while incarcerated, it makes no sense to prohibit them from getting a good paying job by denying them the occupational license they need to get started on their new path forward,” said SPLC Action Fund policy director Carrie Boyd.

The measure has yet to receive committee references ahead of the 60-day session that convenes January 11. There is no Senate sponsor.

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