Author:Boehm, Eric

WHETHER THEY'RE LOOKING for a fresh start after a run-in with the law, trying to relocate across state lines, or merely hoping to operate a hairdryer without first getting the government's permission, the first half of 2019 brought good news for workers. Licensing reforms have been on the march in state capitols across the country, as lawmakers from both major parties embrace an issue that libertarians have been talking about for years.

"Heavily Democratic states are passing similar legislation to what's being passed in Republican-controlled states," says Zach Herman, a research analyst with the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

That bipartisan spirit was on full display in Oklahoma City in April, when a significant licensing reform sailed through the state legislature with only two "nay" votes. The new law eliminates so-called "good character" provisions--which effectively rule out any applicant with a criminal history--from all the state's occupational licensing laws. Now, each licensing board will have to publish a list of specific disqualifying offenses.

Letting Oklahomans with criminal records work in licensed professions "will help them find jobs and contribute to society, which will increase employment opportunities and public safety while decreasing recidivism," says Jenna Moll, deputy director for the Justice Action Network, which pushed for the bill's passage.

Meanwhile in Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey oversaw the...

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