No Connecticut resident who dreams of a good job with good wages should be denied the opportunity by unnecessary requirements or as a collateral consequence of an irrelevant criminal conviction, and no skilled worker who wants to come live in Connecticut should get turned away on a technicality. Governor Lamont proposes saying our state is ready to recognize skilled workers and welcome new residents, including military spouses, by establishing a system to recognize licenses from other state subject to safeguards that ensure public health and safety is preserved.
Governor Lamont is committed to getting Connecticut’s economy growing again and to guaranteeing it’s an economy that works for everyone. A quarter of the jobs in that economy are in licensed occupations—up from five percent in the 1950s and significantly more than in any other New England or Mid-Atlantic state. People who wish to work in those occupations must first obtain the permission of our state government.
In general, that system of occupational licenses preserves public health and safety, as well as consumer confidence and employee welfare. At times, however, unnecessarily high barriers to entry prevent low-income and other disadvantaged workers from embarking on promising fields and discourage skilled workers from moving to Connecticut.
Growing our economy requires growing our population, which has been flat for more than a decade. More people in Connecticut means more jobs for current residents and more vibrant communities for everyone.
But if you work in a licensed occupation and are considering a new life in Connecticut, you have to navigate intricate, job-specific requirements to determine whether or not Connecticut will recognize your out-of-state license. In many instances, the state will only recognize that license if you move from a state that reciprocates Connecticut’s out-of-state licensure process and has licensing requirements similar to or higher than our own—no matter how many years you’ve spent mastering your skills on the job.
Those requirements are why licensed workers, although no less likely to move inside a state, are 24 percent less likely to move to a new state than comparable unlicensed workers. They’re why the Obama administration concluded that America’s “patchwork of licensing laws restricts worker mobility—which is costly not only for workers, but also for employers, consumers and the economy at large.” And they’re why it recommended states “harmonize licensing requirements to the maximum extent possible.”
Those requirements are especially onerous for military spouses, 90% of whom are women. A third of those spouses work in occupations that require a state license, and they are ten times more likely to move across state lines than their civilian counterparts. Barriers to licensure create severe employment challenges and contribute to an unemployment rate among military spouses four times the national average. Connecticut’s barriers to licensure may also lead the U.S. military to single out Connecticut when considering future base reductions or closures.
Licensure requirements affect not only physical mobility, but also social mobility for those aspiring to a good middle-class job. The state owes those residents a hard look at whether skills-based testing can substitute for onerous training requirements while enhancing public health and safety. It also owes formerly incarcerated people who have earned a second chance in society a real shot at that chance. Very few criminal convictions come with a life sentence, but too many carry the collateral consequence of continued barriers to employment in licensed professions. One of those barriers is the state’s outdated background check system. Another is its old-fashioned language requiring applicants for certain licenses to demonstrate they are “of good moral character.” As a local law journal described it, over time that requirement “has excommunicated a diverse and changing community, variously defined to include not only former felons, but women, minorities, adulterers, radicals, and bankrupts. Although the number of applicants formally denied admission has always been quite small, the number deterred, delayed, or harassed has been more substantial.”
Governor Lamont’s Solution
COVID-19 is causing tens of thousands of families across the region to take a fresh look at Connecticut. Governor Lamont proposes setting a new tone that says our state is ready to welcome those new residents, and military spouses, by establishing a system that recognizes licenses from other states. Under his proposal, if you move to our state and have practiced in good standing under another state’s license for at least a year, you’ll be eligible to apply for a license from the Department of Public Health or Consumer Protection. Those departments will continue to protect public health and safety by requiring applicants demonstrate competence on any appropriate test, determining the practice level at which any Connecticut license is issued, and denying applications that are not in the best interest of the state. Similar laws passed with bipartisan majorities in Arizona in 2019 and have since taken off around the country.
COVID-19 also demonstrated the importance of a mobile healthcare workforce and that healthcare workers could be mobilized across state lines without endangering those under their care. Governor Lamont proposes setting Connecticut on a path toward making it easier for our valued healthcare professionals to practice their occupation in other states and provide continuity of care to Connecticut residents on the go. In the last several years, more than 40 other states have joined interstate licensure compacts that allow physicians, psychologists, EMTs, and other healthcare workers to provide telehealth across state lines, come to one another’s aid in emergencies, or apply more easily for a license in a new jurisdiction. Connecticut is one of only 8 states that is not party to a single one of those compacts. The governor’s proposal directs the Department of Public Health to recommend which compacts Connecticut should join, as well as which license examinations currently administered by the state could be more effectively administered by national experts or could be improved to better stand in for onerous training or experience requirements.
Finally, Governor Lamont proposes expanding economic opportunities for the one in four Americans with a criminal record, benefitting not only those workers but also our broader community by reducing recidivism and increasing options for employers and consumers. His bill directs agencies to evaluate streamlining state background checks and providing a pre-clearance assessment of criminal history to potential applicants so they can begin their education or training confident of their ultimate eligibility. It also replaces the “good moral character” requirement with language clarifying that licenses can only be denied because of relevant felony convictions evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Those changes will benefit current licensees, aspiring licensees, aspiring Connecticut residents Connecticut consumers, and the state as a whole.