Kenyatta, Lewis unveil Fighting Chance Act legislation

HARRISBURG, March 26 -- Working to cut government red tape and reform the criminal justice system, freshmen state Reps. Malcolm Kenyatta, D-Phila., and Andrew Lewis, R-Dauphin, today unveiled their Fighting Chance Act legislation at a state Capitol press conference.

The bill would require state agencies overseeing occupational licensure and the Board of Probation and Parole to reduce red tape by 25 percent over the next three years, with the intent to eliminate unnecessary barriers for people trying to get into these important, licensed occupations.

“Pennsylvania has the potential to be the top state in the nation for jobs and opportunity, but we won’t achieve that goal without significant government reform,” Lewis said. “For example, our state has thousands of outdated regulations governing occupational licensure that are keeping good people out of the workforce and hindering our small businesses growth. We believe we can change that through the Fighting Chance Act.”

The bill also aims to reform the criminal justice system by calling for the removal of barriers to employment for people who have paid their debt to society.

“People who are incarcerated have to perform all types of work in the institutions in which they’re being held,” Kenyatta said. “If you have the training and expertise to do the work of an electrician, plumber, or barber, you should be able to get back to work when you have paid your debt. People deserve a path to redemption and a family-sustaining job. Those who are willing to work hard deserve the chance to do so; to deny them this chance is to doom them to a path of recidivism.”

Pennsylvania’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs oversees 29 licensing boards that regulate more than 250 types of licenses and more than 1 million licensees across the commonwealth.

The lawmakers modeled their bill after one recently enacted by the Republican legislature and signed by the Democratic governor of Virginia to create a regulatory reduction pilot program. In that state, the pilot program lasts for three years and requires the agencies within the program to provide reports on their progress, including legislative changes necessary to help them reach their goal of reducing regulatory requirements. These agencies are also required to take any new regulatory action necessary to help them achieve their goal. The benefit of this approach is that agencies are given broad latitude to identify and select the specific regulations to cut, as long as they meet the 25 percent requirement and advance the primary objective, which is to make it easier for small business owners, returning citizens, and really anyone seeking licensure, to enter the workforce in a licensed occupation.

“We believe in good government and in reducing frivolous government regulations; in reforming the criminal justice system; in fighting for everyday workers, families, small business owners and returning citizens,” the lawmakers said. “We believe in giving all Pennsylvanians a fighting chance.”

In addition to Lewis and Kenyatta, the bill has collected 20 co-sponsors.