Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt is expected to sign a bill into law that would make it easier for previously convicted citizens to gain an occupational license. As Reason’s Eric Boehm notes, this is a major step for occupational licensing and criminal justice reform:
This is a huge deal. Oklahoma has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the country (and, by extension, the highest incarceration rate anywhere in the world), and many of the state’s licensed professions are effectively off limits to anyone with a criminal record. Once signed, HB 1373 will remove the broad-but-vague rules that allow occupational licensing boards to deny license applications on the grounds that an individual lacks ‘good moral character.’
The passage of the First Step Act this year indicates that conservatives’ move toward moderation on criminal justice is still alive and well. Between (admittedly modest) federal reforms and the numerous state efforts similar to Oklahoma’s (Arizona, Ohio, Kansas, and Indiana are just a few examples of red states that have passed such reforms in the past two years), it’s clear that the positive momentum is continuing.
While conservatives are in general moving in the more dovish direction on criminal justice reform, the ability to couple improvements to the criminal justice system with a broader agenda of deregulation makes transpartisan coalition building on this specific question more likely.