By Peter Calcara, vice president – government relations
The legislative process can be unpredictable, frustrating, and painfully slow. Such is the price to pay for democratic institutions. But, on occasion, the process can shock you when, almost out of nowhere, an issue or specific piece of legislation breaks your way and starts moving almost uninhibited through the process.
A case in point is the recent passage of Senate Bill 354 (SB 354). The bill, sponsored by Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bucks), started out as a way to address misconduct by those licensed under the Pennsylvania Department of State’s Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs’ (BPOA) 29 professional and occupational licensing boards and commissions, which includes the State Board of Accountancy. Tomlinson introduced a similar bill in the 2015-2016 legislative session, but it died during the legislative process.
As Tomlinson’s bill was moving through legislative committees this session, the House Professional Licensure Committee added an amendment that would allow licensees to “expunge” their records under certain, limited conditions, a PICPA legislative priority for several years. Rep. Kate Harper (R-Montgomery) sponsored legislation to address this in each of the past three sessions, only to be thwarted in the process.
Expungement is already a legal concept under Pennsylvania’s criminal statutes. An expungement is a legal order that removes a criminal record from public view and restricts access to law-enforcement agencies.
SB 354 defines expunge/expungement as the “removal of a disciplinary record, accomplished by: (1) permanently sealing the affected record from public access; (2) deeming the proceedings to which the affected record refers as not having occurred; and (3) except with respect to any subsequent application for expungement, affording the affected party the right to represent that no record exists regarding the subject matter of the affected record.”
Under the bill, the BPOA commissioner would be required, under certain circumstances, to expunge the disciplinary record of a licensee if the imposition of discipline was for a violation involving failure to complete continuing education requirements or practicing for six months or less on a lapsed license, registration, certificate, or permit. PICPA’s support for expungement is predicated on the fact that most of these violations are of the “traffic ticket” variety, and are not criminal or fraudulent in nature.
To have your record expunged, the following must apply:
- The record must be at least four years old.
- The record must be the only disciplinary record the applicant has.
- The applicant must not be the subject of an active investigation related to professional or occupational conduct.
- The applicant must not be in a current disciplinary status, and any fees or fines assessed must be paid in full.
- The applicant must not have had a disciplinary record previously expunged.
- The licensee, registrant, certificate holder, or permit holder shall pay all costs associated with the expungement as established by the commissioner by regulation.
As of this blog posting, SB 354 needs to clear one more legislative hurdle (the state Senate) before it is sent to Gov. Tom Wolf and hopefully becomes law in Pennsylvania.