Speaker Beth Harwell cosponsors legislation promoting employment and reducing recidivism
(NASHVILLE) — House members have unanimously approved legislation sponsored by State Representative Jeremy Faison (R-Cosby) and cosponsored by Tennessee House Speaker Beth Harwell (R-Nashville) removing barriers for Tennesseans who are seeking a fresh start in life.
House Bill 2248 — also known as the Fresh Start Act — is designed to further reduce Tennessee’s recidivism rates by providing a pathway to employment for citizens who are returning to their communities following incarceration and who desire a fresh start in life.
Currently, Tennessee requires licenses for 110 different jobs; many impact those seeking manual labor or other industrial-related work. State licensing boards can deny a license for these professions to individuals with past criminal records, including lower-level forms of crime classified as misdemeanors.
As passed, House Bill 2248 requires that denials and refusals for license renewals based on a prior criminal conviction are only allowable when the criminal offense directly relates to an individual’s ability to perform duties associated with the occupation or profession they are seeking a licensure for — excluding violent felonies.
“Those who are directly impacted by this legislation have already paid their debt to society,” said Chairman Faison. “Additional punishment is completely wrong. I am pleased that this bill removes a significant barrier to employment for them.”
“House Bill 2248 moves those seeking a fresh start in life on a pathway from dependency to independence, and I am proud to have supported this important initiative,” said Speaker Harwell. “It also saves taxpayer money on the cost of incarceration and will enable more of our citizens to capitalize on a greater number of high-quality jobs available in Tennessee.”
According to the Council of State Governments (CSG), nearly 10 million U.S. adults return to their communities following incarceration every year; upon their release, many face significant barriers to securing employment. CSG estimates that occupational restrictions can result in 2.85 million fewer people employed nationally and also raise consumer expenses by more than $200 billion.
For more information about House Bill 2248, please click here.