Legislative Testimony: LB709, Change requirements relating to preliminary applications under the Occupational Board Reform Act
Chairman Brewer and Members of the Government, Military and Veteran Affairs Committee, my name is Laura Ebke. I am the senior fellow at the Platte Institute and speak today in support of LB709 and AM1698. We thank Senator McCollister for introducing this bill and making it his personal priority legislation this year.
LB709 grows out of an interim study that this committee did last fall, LR191, seeking to understand some of the problems with occupational licensing for those who have criminal convictions on their records. We needed to consider these issues for two reasons. First, those who have paid their debt to society ought not to be excluded from succeeding in that society upon release.
Second, LB263—Universal Recognition of licensure from other states—was being considered. Several neighboring states have already made it easier for those with criminal convictions to obtain licensing, and it was essential to know how convictions in another state that allows licensing might conflict with our current limitations based on criminal history.
During LR191’s open hearing in October, the record I found showed that only two state licensing agencies registered any concern with what might happen if some of the so-called “fair chance” licensing was introduced during this session.
Likewise, the Council of State Governments provided testimony supporting fair chance licensing policies. I believe that you have received a letter from Joshua Gaines with CSG, who also provided in-person testimony at the Interim Study Hearing. I would encourage you to read the letter that he sent and note that those things found in LB709 are not at all unusual nationwide and are part of a larger movement to give people who have made mistakes in their lives the maximum opportunity to chase their dreams.
I’ve included some of the maps that can be found on the CSG website for you to take a look at here, as well as the link if you’re inspired to look more deeply. They show a nationwide comparison of different “best practices” and where different states are in the mix. https://csgjusticecenter.org/projects/fair-chance-licensing/state-by-state-licensing-maps/
LB709 would remove some of the barriers that those with criminal records sometimes face in moving on with their lives. One of the things that I appreciate is that Senator McCollister’s draft recognized that licensing boards are not able to “turn on a dime,” and hence the current draft would give the boards until 2024 before having a list of disqualifying offenses in the statutes. I would think that those updates could be done mostly without controversy.
As Senator McCollister mentioned, provisions found in AM1698 were suggested by several of the coalition of organizations that have been a part of this effort. We support the changes and urge the advancement of LB709 to General File.