Tennessee bill would limit licensing denials of ex-offenders

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A bill in Tennessee would limit the ability of state licensing boards to deny occupational licenses based on the criminal history of applicants.

Republican Sen. Kerry Roberts of Springfield, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Lee Harris of Memphis and Republican Rep. Jeremy Faison of Cosby announced the Fresh Start legislation Monday.

Senate Bill 2465 would only let boards deny licenses based on past crimes that are directly related to the job someone is seeking, or for certain felonies.

“Last year there were over 13,000 felons released out of our jails and prisons in Tennessee with over 2,200 released from Shelby County,” said Sen. Harris.  “The most important thing we can do to ensure these folks don’t return is to provide them with a path to employment.  Easing restrictions on job licensing will help those who have served their time obtain employment, and stay on the path of being a productive citizen.”

The legislation also would let applicants petition a state licensing board upfront to see if a past crime will disqualify them.

A news release from the lawmakers says Tennessee requires a license for 110 jobs, and almost every licensing board can currently deny a license due to past criminal records, including misdemeanors.