How States Are Expanding Access to Work

Across the country, at least 44 states have adopted fair chance licensing legislation to reduce barriers to licensure for people with criminal records. During the 2021 legislative session, 10 legislatures across the country made significant progress in adopting laws that promote best practices to expand licensing opportunities for people with criminal histories. These legislatures include AZ, GA, IL, NJ, NM, OH, TN, VT, WA, and the District of Columbia.

Rep. Koehler’s Story

State Representative Kyle Koehler, a Republican representing Ohio’s 79th House district, championed the state’s Fresh Start Act in 2021. The act, which received broad bipartisan support, represents one of the most robust fair chance licensing laws in the country and was inspired in part by Koehler’s years of experience as an employer at his small family-owned manufacturing business.

Examples of recent state action include:

  • Expanded the factors boards must consider when evaluating criminal history to include time since the commission of the offense and evidence of rehabilitation.
  • Explicitly barred consideration of juvenile records and nonviolent misdemeanors and sealed, expunged, or dismissed convictions in licensing decisions.
  • Supplemented existing fair chance requirements with additional procedural protections and public education requirements.
  • Required licensing bodies to provide written notice of the reasons for a conviction-based denial.
  • Mandated online publication of a list of all the potential barriers to licensure imposed by state law.
  • Expanded reporting provisions to require boards to collect and publish information on the number of conviction-based denials and the types of convictions that resulted in them.
  • Built upon 2019 legislation to create one of the most comprehensive fair chance licensing laws in the nation.
  • Ohio’s law now incorporates nearly all national best practices, including placing limits on the age of convictions that can be considered, prohibiting denial absent a “direct relationship” between a conviction and the licensed activity, and providing robust procedural protections.
  • Expanded upon protections enacted in the 2018 Fresh Start Act by repealing the presumption in favor of disqualification for Class A, Class B, and certain Class C felonies, and felonies requiring registration as a sex offender or animal abuser.
  • Enacted clear standards for considering whether to deny a license based on criminal history, including the relationship between the crime and profession, evidence of rehabilitation, and passage of time since the commission of the offense.

Additional Resources