Fair Chance Licensing Bill (2020), 0221 RIBJ, RIBJ, 69 RI Bar J., No. 4, Pg. 7

PositionVol. 69 4 Pg. 7

Fair Chance Licensing Bill (2020)

Vol. 69 No. 4 Pg. 7

Rhode Island Bar Journal

February, 2021

January, 2021

Jenna Giguere, Esq.1

On July 22, 2020, a bill was signed into law that provides state agencies responsible for issuing occupational licenses with uniform review criteria and procedures applicable to adverse decisions on the basis of criminal background information.2 The name "Fair Chance Licensing Act," though not appearing in the bill language itself, was used by advocates and in General Assembly press to express the intent to give persons with criminal backgrounds a "fair chance" to pursue occupations requiring state licensing.

This informational summary provides a data-supported review of the policy landscape that led to efforts by advocacy groups to the eventual adoption of this bill. Building on that background, the summary reviews the pre-enactment sources of law on the review criteria and procedures applied to occupational licensing cases involving criminal background information. Finally, the summary details the key provisions of the Fair Chance Act.

Criminal justice is being looked at nationally and locally through a "justice reinvestment" lens.3National scale data shows that states that lower recidivism (such as through efforts that increase employment potential of the risk population) could save state governments hundreds of millions of dollars annually on corrections spending and associated costs.4 Criminal justice experts agree that access to employment is crucial to reducing recidivism.5

Accordingly, there is a broad policy interest in evaluating the barriers to employment faced by persons with criminal backgrounds. The directly affected population is also larger than most readers may have thought - Did you know that 1 in 3 adults in the U.S. has a criminal record?6

One obvious barrier that persons with criminal backgrounds face in seeking employment is finding a willing employer. The issue is quite timely, with the leading national organization Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) launching an initiative in 2019 called "Getting Talent Back to Work." Statistics related to this effort show that 68% of human resource managers have already hired persons with criminal backgrounds and that 50% of coworkers surveyed at all levels had no reservations working alongside such candidates.7 Employers cite a number of varied reasons for their increasing willingness to hire from this candidate pool, including a focus on the "best candidate" despite criminal background, benefits for internal and external company reputation from giving "second chances," and improving the larger community. Additionally, federal tax credits and bonding programs are available for certain qualifying employment of individuals with criminal backgrounds.

Even if a person with a criminal background overcomes the hurdle of finding a willing employer, they may also face the hurdle of obtaining occupational licensing required for the job. Nationally, 25% of workers are in a position that requires a government-issued occupational license.8 The job sectors that are the fastest growing and feature the best long-term wage growth potential are those that will also most typically require a government-issued occupational license.9

Prior to the enactment of the Fair Chance Act, agencies applied the uniform procedures applicable to administrative hearings found in the Administrative Procedures Act (Chapter 42-35) to licensing cases involving criminal background information. Agencies also applied review criteria for criminal...

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