Last Updated: Dec 28, 2020
Legislation - Act 53 of 2020 signed into law by Governor Wolf on July 1, 2020 - will afford skilled workers with a criminal history a second chance to obtain occupational licensure. For additional information, read Act 53 in its entirety here
Under Pennsylvania law, many occupations require a professional license. Professional licenses are regulated and issued by the various occupational licensing boards within the Pennsylvania Department of State’s (DOS) Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA).
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. John DiSanto, passed with bipartisan support in the General Assembly and is aimed at creating a modernized set of rules for consideration of criminal records in occupational licensure, which will remove potential barriers to employment and entrepreneurship.
What Does the Act Do?
Act 53 of 2020 (“the Act”) requires licensure boards to complete individual reviews of applicants to determine whether a past criminal conviction is a disqualification for licensure. Among the factors that boards must consider are whether the criminal conviction directly relates to the individual’s occupation, the applicant’s rehabilitation, and whether issuing a license to the applicant would create a substantial risk to the public.
The Act requires the Commissioner of BPOA and the state licensure boards to create a public list of criminal offenses that may disqualify applicants from licensure. In the Dec. 26, 2020 edition of the Pennsylvania Bulletin, notice was published that these lists are now completed and publicly available.
The list for the State Board of Medicine can be accessed here.
The list for the State Board of Osteopathic Medicine can be accessed here.
Pursuant to the Act, the Commissioner has two years after publication of the completed lists to promulgate regulations codifying the schedules. The schedules thereafter may be updated as needed through the regulatory process.
Individuals may obtain a preliminary decision on whether their criminal history poses a potential barrier to licensure. Nevertheless, despite any lists promulgated and any preliminary decisions rendered, individuals may still apply for a license and present evidence to support their case for licensure.
The Act does list certain offenses as barriers for licensure. For example, when determining eligibility for licensure as a health care practitioner, a licensing board may not issue a license or otherwise allow an individual to practice as a health care practitioner if the individual has been convicted of a sexual offense.
These provisions of the Act take effect in 180 days from the date of the governor's signature.
The Pennsylvania Medical Society (PAMED) will continue to monitor the implementation of Act 53 and notify members of any additional developments. PAMED will update members accordingly of any proposed regulations.