If you want to become a licensed dental hygienist or sell insurance in Wyoming, you have to be reviewed by a professional licensing board.
These boards oversee a number of industries in the state, and their rules for admitting people convicted of a crime vary depending on the profession. State lawmakers have introduced two bills that would instruct all licensing boards to look past convictions for some crimes.
The Wyoming Department of Corrections told the committee that one-fourth of U.S. workers need a license to do their jobs, and nationally, one-third of those licenses aren’t available to convicted felons. Eric Barlow, a representative from Northeast Wyoming, said this makes rehabilitation more difficult.
“They should not continue to be penalized by not being able to practice within their profession, or potentially they want to be trained into a new profession, and they wouldn’t be allowed to actually do the work,” Barlow said.
Under the House bill, licensing boards would not be allowed to deny licenses for crimes committed more than 20 years ago as long as their sentences had been complete for at least 10 years, and the crime did not relate to the job. A similar Senate bill would do that and make the rules more consistent, so that no boards would be instructed to throw out applicants based on unrelated crimes.
Barlow said there would be caveats to this.
“There’s some safety checks in there that would allow boards to say, this is still too close, or, we have some concerns over these applicants.”
The legislation makes an exception for violent or sexual crimes, which licensing boards for professions like teaching or medicine would be allowed to consider no matter how much time had passed. These bills have been introduced by the Health, Labor, and Social Services Committee, and may move further after the legislative session begins on February 12. Several states have passed similar bills in recent years.