- Associated Press - Thursday, September 10, 2020

LANSING, Mich (AP) - The Michigan House on Thursday unanimously approved bills designed to lift restrictions that prevent people with a criminal record from obtaining occupational licenses.

The bipartisan legislation, which was sent to the Senate for future debate, involves the consideration of an applicant’s “good moral character” during the licensing process. Boards and agencies already cannot consider an individual’s conviction, in and of itself, as proof that he or she lacks character for a license.

The measures would prohibit the consideration of a conviction unless it is a felony and regulators also determine the specific offense is grounds for a denial. The tighter requirements would not apply when licensing child care providers, lawyers, law enforcement officers and workers in nursing homes, adult foster care facilities and homes for the aged.

A bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Brandt Iden of Kalamazoo County’s Oshtemo Township, said the intent is to help people get back to work. Nearly one-third of working-age adults have a criminal record.

“People across Michigan have been denied licensure by the state simply because of a mistake made when they were young,” he said in a statement. “These are hardworking people dedicated to overcoming those mistakes.”



Gilda Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, which advocates for the poor, said the state’s definition of moral character for licensing purposes is outdated.

“We should be making it easier for people to find work, not harder, and this is one of several positive packages to eliminate employment and other barriers for people with a criminal record,” she said in a statement. “And because of the dramatic overrepresentation of Black and Brown Michiganders in the justice system, these bills also strike an important blow for racial equity in the state.”

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