Trio of occupational licensing bills en route to governor’s desk

Trio of occupational licensing bills en route to governor’s desk

A series of occupational licensing reform bills making their way out of the General Assembly would help more Illinoisans enter the workforce.

For too many Illinoisans, economic opportunity is hard to come by. In industries thought to offer gainful employment to those lower on the socioeconomic scale, occupational licensure and similar regulations can block career paths for aspiring workers across the state.

And for those with a troubled past, one’s criminal record can follow ex-offenders through their employment prospects, making such regulatory hurdles even more difficult to clear.

Fortunately, three bills making their way to the governor’s desk would do their part in disassembling some of these needless barriers.

The first two bills – House Bill 4883 and Senate Bill 2877 – filed by state Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, and state Rep. Rita Mayfield, D-Waukegan, respectively, would give cosmetology students the ability to test their skill level in their chosen field before attaining licensure. These bills, which are identical, would allow students who are aspiring barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, and nail stylists to undergo a noncompulsory exam upon having completed a fixed level of schooling defined by the bill.

The third bill, Senate Bill 2853, would assist ex-offenders in navigating their way into the labor force after paying their debt to society. The measure would require the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, or IDFPR, to include on its website resources explaining how specific offenses correspond to the agency’s policies regarding occupational licensure.

SB 2853, filed by state Sen. Pamela Althoff, R-McHenry, would serve as a sensible compliment to House Bill 5973, signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner Aug. 22, 2016. Effective January 2017, HB 5973 barred IDFPR from using one’s criminal record to deny them licensure in certain professions – unless the offense involved the profession in question. The law pertained to the same occupations that would be covered by SB 2853.

That these bills exceled in the General Assembly offers an encouraging sign that licensing reform has found favor across party lines. Each of these licensing reform proposals passed both chambers unanimously.

For Illinoisans struggling to break into the labor force, these bills would be a welcome push in the right direction. Lawmakers should continue to take further advantage of this area of emerging bipartisan consensus.

In addition to these most recent reforms, Springfield should be exploring ways to reduce schooling requirements for licensure and free some potential workers from unnecessary licensing regulations altogether.

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