Eliminate Occupational Licensing Barriers that Prevent Work-Ready Individuals from Finding Gainful Employment and Rebuilding Their Lives

Policy Background

Nearly 70,000 men and women reenter Texas communities after prison each year,1 and many face significant hurdles to employment, especially licensed professions. Texas requires occupational licenses for more than 25 percent of professions, but automatic exclusions and vague disqualifying criteria for people with criminal records pose barriers to licensure. More specifically, licensing boards may disqualify people from receiving a license if they have been convicted of any offense within the last five years – regardless of whether that offense is in any way pertinent to the occupation. Licensing authorities can additionally disqualify people for a license if a past offense does “directly relate” to the occupation (although that is a subjective standard), and they can point to vague and arbitrary standards like “moral character” when denying a license. Also problematic, current policy makes it overly complicated for people to provide evidence of rehabilitation to show that they have put past mistakes behind them.2 Collectively, these factors can lead to an economic death sentence, creating more instability for returning individuals and their families – forcing them into social welfare programs or back into crime.

While it is critical to give people with a criminal history more opportunities to find employment and become economically stable, it is also important to provide employers with a growing candidate pool to keep Texas’ workforce and economy strong and vibrant.

Proposed Solution

(1) Prohibit licensing boards from disqualifying an applicant whose offense history does not “directly relate” to the occupation being considered; clearly and narrowly define how an offense does “directly relate” to an occupation; and eliminate vague “moral character” standards. (2) Allow applicants to dispute incorrect criminal records or provide evidence of mitigating factors prior to the denial of a license. (3) Require licensing boards to provide clear guidance to applicants who are denied a license about what they can do to improve their future chances of approval.

Relevant Bill

  • Bill Number: HB 1342 [Leach, Allen]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consequences of a criminal conviction on a person's eligibility for an occupational license.

  • Bill Number: SB 523 [Hinojosa]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consequences of a criminal conviction on a person's eligibility for an occupational license.

Other Bills Related to Occupational Licenses or Workforce Development

  • Bill Number: HB 218 [Krause, Oliverson, Hernandez, Blanco]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license.
    House Hearing Notice: Higher Education, February 27, 2019

  • Bill Number: HB 258 [Blanco, Krause, Hernandez, Guillen]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license.
    House Hearing Notice: Higher Education, February 27, 2019

  • Bill Number: HB 466 [Hernandez, Krause, Raney]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license.
    House Hearing Notice: Higher Education, February 27, 2019

  • Bill Number: HB 495 [Deshotel]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consideration of criminal history record information regarding applicants for employment.

  • Bill Number: HB 574 [Dutton]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consequences of successfully completing a period of deferred adjudication community supervision.
    House Hearing Notice: Corrections, March 14, 2019

  • Bill Number: HB 846 [Oliverson, Krause]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license and to certain duties of state agencies and political subdivisions in relation to delinquent or defaulted student loans.

  • Bill Number: HB 918 [White]
    Bill Caption: Relating to providing certain discharged or released inmates with documentation to assist in obtaining employment.

  • Bill Number: HB 1377 [Dutton]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the creation of a commission to review certain laws of this state that restrict the rights or activities of persons convicted of a felony offense and to make certain recommendations regarding those laws.
    House Hearing Notice: Corrections, March 14, 2019

  • Bill Number: HB 1669 [Lucio III]
    Bill Caption: Relating to a comprehensive plan for increasing and improving the workforce in this state that serves persons with mental health and substance use issues.

  • Bill Number: HB 2014 [Goldman]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the authority of a political subdivision to regulate certain activities.

  • Bill Number: HB 2232 [Reynolds]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consequences of a criminal conviction on a person's eligibility for an occupational license.

  • Bill Number: HB 2448 [Reynolds]
    Bill Caption: Relating to a strategic plan to reduce recidivism by facilitating stable employment for persons who are preparing to reenter communities of this state after incarceration.

  • Bill Number: HB 2635 [Raney]
    Bill Caption: Relating to a prohibition on the use of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for refusal to grant or renew an occupational license or other disciplinary action in relation to an occupational license.

  • Bill Number: SB 37 [Zaffirini]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license.

  • Bill Number: SB 296 [Buckingham]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the abolition of student loan default or breach of a student loan repayment or scholarship contract as a ground for nonrenewal or other disciplinary action in relation to a professional or occupational license and to certain duties of state agencies and political subdivisions in relation to delinquent or defaulted student loans.

  • Bill Number: SB 429 [Lucio]
    Bill Caption: Relating to a comprehensive plan for increasing and improving the workforce in this state to serve persons with mental health and substance use issues.

  • Bill Number: SB 461 [Johnson]
    Bill Caption: Relating to providing certain discharged or released inmates with documentation to assist in obtaining employment.

  • Bill Number: SB 834 [Powell]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the issuance of an occupational license to certain applicants with prior convictions.

  • Bill Number: SB 965 [Alvarado]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the consequences of a criminal conviction on a person's eligibility for an occupational license.

  • Bill Number: SB 1209 [Hancock]
    Bill Caption: Relating to the authority of a political subdivision to regulate certain activities.

Other Materials


1 Texas Department of Criminal Justice, FY 2017 Statistical Report, 3.

2 Maurice Emsellem, Fair Chance Hiring: Reducing Criminal Records Barriers to Employment Improves Public Safety and Builds Stronger Communities, 2014.

See also: Texas Occupations Code §53.021 – §53.023.