Reynolds signs bill easing licensure for new Iowans and people with criminal records

Gov. Kim Reynolds signs a bill on June 25, 2020, at Associated Building Contractors in Grimes. The new law eases professional license restrictions for new Iowans and people with criminal convictions. (Photo by Kathie Obradovich/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds signed legislation Thursday that she said would relieve “onerous and burdensome” professional licensing laws that are among the most restrictive in the nation.

The bill also will make it easier for people who are licensed out of state to qualify for an Iowa license and allow most people with criminal records to qualify for a license or avoid revocation.

“This is a bill that embodies the idea, I believe, that opportunity lives here,” Reynolds said at a bill-signing ceremony at the Associated Building Contractors facility in Grimes.

She said a quarter of Iowans need a license to do their job ꟷ the second-highest state in the nation for licensing requirements. She said appropriate licensing is needed to protect health and safety.

“But when that system becomes onerous and burdensome to those seeking opportunity and when it creates unnecessary barriers to people entering the workforce, changes need to be made,” Reynolds said.

The bill allows new Iowa residents who hold an out-of-state license to continue practicing without any additional training. The bill also also recognizes three years of work experience as a substitute for education, training or work experience requirements to get an Iowa licenses.

Reynolds said the bill’s provisions allowing people with criminal records to qualify for licensure is a key  element of her “second chance” agenda.

Under current law, even a misdemeanor conviction might be grounds for denial or revocation of a professional license, even if it has nothing to do with the person’s job. Under House File 2627, only certain felony convictions would affect a person’s eligibility for a license and only if an “unreasonable risk” to public safety exists because the offense relates directly to the job duties.

Plumbing and electrical licenses could be suspended, revoked or denied for convictions of sexual abuse, sexual violence, dependent adult abuse or domestic abuse assault.  Professional licensing boards can grant exceptions and the bill allows people serving prison sentences or those recently released to qualify for an apprentice or unclassified electrician license.

Applicants for a license also can petition a professional licensing board for a determination of whether his or her criminal history would be ground for denial. That would save the expense of the licensure process, which can add up to thousands of dollars.

Here are some other provisions of the bill, as summarized by the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency:

  • Requires that specified professional licensing boards issue professional licenses to applicants with out-of-state licenses if the applicants have established Iowa residency and met specified conditions.
  • Requires specified professional licensing boards to extend license expiration dates to June 30, 2021.
  • Eliminates the Hospital Licensing Board.
  • Waives the initial application and background check fees for any professional licensure applicant if the applicant’s household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level and the applicant has not previously applied for that professional license in Iowa. The bill takes effect Jan. 1, 2021.