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Bill to allow former convicts access to more occupations advances

By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Alabama lawmakers are close to removing many restrictions in state law about where convicted felons can work.

“Everyone says we want people who get out of prison to be employed, taxpaying citizens,” Sen. Cam Ward, R-Alabaster, said Thursday. “But then the government puts barriers in the way of people getting jobs.”

There are more than 700 places in Alabama law that restrict the occupation and business licenses of the felons. For example, they can’t be interior designers or get some cosmetology licenses, Ward said.

“(Occupational licensing boards) will say they don’t enforce those laws,” Ward said. “Good, let’s get them off the books.”

Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, sponsored the bill in the House and said during floor debate it will keep boards or commission from arbitrarily denying a person the right to get a license or certificate.

It passed the Alabama House of Representatives without any opposition on Thursday.

Senate Bill 163 establishes a process for individuals to petition a circuit court to obtain an occupational license if they have been convicted of a crime and prohibits an occupational licensing board or commission from automatically denying a certificate or license to the convicted individual.

Ward said there are exceptions. A convicted child molester can’t work at a day care, someone who committed securities fraud can’t have a banking license.

A minor amendment approved in the House means the bill now goes back to the Senate for final passage.

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