HB 1399, to remove occupational license barriers for people who have finished prison sentences

Feb 16, 2021

Key findings

1. Occupational license restrictions on those with criminal records are a barrier to those looking to begin a new career.

2. Research demonstrates that finding work significantly reduces the chance of recidivism.

3. A 2015 report from the Obama Administration notes that existing restrictions have a disproportionate impact on minorities and immigrants.

4. HB 1399 would remove unnecessary barriers for those who have completed their sentence, allowing them to receive licenses for jobs unrelated to their previous offense.

5. Support for these reforms has bipartisan support, including the Democratic Chair and ranking Republican on the House Consumer Protection Committee.


As Washington prepares to re-open its economy, legislators should remove barriers that make it difficult for many low-income workers to find jobs. Of particular note are restrictions for those with criminal records who have finished their sentences. Currently, Washington state puts licensing barriers on those who are trying to put their past behind them and begin a new career and chapter in their life.

House Bill 1399 has been introduced to address this problem. House Bill 1399 would remove existing restrictions that prevent those with a criminal record from receiving an occupational license, if the job is unrelated to their previous offense.

Additionally, the bill would allow those who have finished prison sentences to receive a determination about whether their criminal record would prevent them from receiving a particular license before they begin expensive training.

At a time when there is a great deal of political polarization and division, HB 1399 has bipartisan support and although it represents a small policy change, the bill follows the examples of several other states, including Illinois and Tennessee. The bill would offer additional hope to people who have paid their debt to society and who want to enter the workforce.

Read the full Legislative Memo here.

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