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Removing Employment Barriers For Tennesseans Seeking Fresh Start

As the 2018 legislative session enters its final weeks, House Republicans remain focused on supporting initiatives that promote job growth and economic prosperity in all regions of our state.

Tennessee continues to experience near historic low levels as it relates to unemployment. Recent numbers released for February show that our statewide unemployment rate currently sits at 3.4 percent. This means that over the past 12 months, our unemployment rate has decreased more than a full percentage point and also remains less than the national average of 4.1 percent.

Our consistently record low unemployment rates showcase the impact of the policies passed by Republican lawmakers. These initiatives have helped to foster an environment where businesses can thrive and create jobs. Additionally, we are finding new ways to support those hoping to capitalize on the larger number of high-quality jobs available.

Just last week, we passed legislation removing barriers to employment for Tennesseans seeking a fresh start in life. House Bill 2248also known as the Fresh Start Act — provides a pathway to employment for citizens who are returning to their communities following incarceration and who desire new opportunities in life.

Currently, Tennessee requires licenses for 110 different jobs; many impacts 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.

Supporters of the legislation agree that additional punishment for individuals who have paid their debt to society is wrong and this bill allows for a person to fix past mistakes while also helping citizens 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.

My colleagues and I will continue to support initiatives like the Fresh Start Act because they will help sustain Tennessee’s economic momentum while removing barriers and regulations that hinder employment. We will continue to fight for you and provide additional resources that support our citizens in their efforts to secure the quality jobs they desire.

Ron Gant serves as Assistant Majority Floor Leader. He is also a member of the House Health Committee and the House Calendar and Rules Committee, as well as the House Insurance & Banking Sub and Full Committees. Gant lives in Rossville and represents House District 94, which includes Fayette, McNairy, and part of Hardeman County. He can be reached by email at: [email protected] or by calling (615) 741-6890.

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