At the same time, licensing agencies are prying deeper into applicants' brushes with the law, said Louis Leichter, an Austin lawyer whose firm often represents ex-offenders seeking licenses. Where once applicants were required to disclose only convictions, now many must also explain incidents ending in pretrial diversion and deferred adjudication, he said.Perhaps most absurdly, "In a few cases, the government covered the cost of occupational training for ex-offenders, only to reject their license applications later." Like increased criminal penalties generally, licensing strictures on ex-felons tend to be a one-way ratchet, seldom rolled back once installed. There has to be some point when ex-offenders have paid their debt to society and are allowed to work, support themselves and, with any luck, their families.
And every legislative session, more occupations are contemplated for new regulation, the process that can exclude those with criminal histories. In the past, lawmakers have proposed regulating sheet metal workers and lactation consultants. This year, bills have been filed that would require licensing and criminal history checks for roofers, foundation repairmen and commercial dog or cat breeders
This might make a terrific Interim Study topic for, say, the House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee, or perhaps Business and Commerce in the Senate. With the Legislature cutting job training and reentry funds, these type of restrictions become an even more critical barrier to ex-felons reintegrating into society, focusing government interventions on disincentives to employment instead of funding programs that promote it. How much sense does that make?