Work Resumes in Pennsylvania to Finalize Rules to Reduce Barriers for Those with Criminal Records to Earn Professional Licenses

State officials are taking another crack at finalizing proposed rules that would make it easier for Pennsylvania residents with criminal records to earn professional licenses in fields ranging from accounting and nursing to cosmetology and real estate. The PA Department of State (DOS), which oversees professional licensure, issued a revised version of the rules this month after an earlier draft was rejected in April by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC). IRRC questioned whether the rules adequately protect public health and safety and was concerned, in part, that certain crimes were not listed as being “directly related” to certain professions, thus triggering a closer look from licensing boards. The rules, for example, did not make prior convictions for forgery or identity theft an automatic impediment for people seeking to become state-licensed CPAs. In its latest version, DOS added stronger language emphasizing that licensing boards have a responsibility to consider individual applications for licensure. The language also clarifies that boards can still consider offenses as part of a licensing decision even if they are not listed as “directly related.” The IRRC met this week and approved the updated version. The rules implement Act 53 of 2020, a state law enacted in 2020.