New TDLR laws provide more licensing opportunities for veterans, military spouses, people with criminal histories

Texas Politics

FILE – This June 1, 2021, file photo shows the State Capitol in Austin, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) implemented dozens of changes on September 1, when 30 new state laws impacting the agency took effect after the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.

TDLR is the state’s licensing and regulatory agency that oversees more than a million licensees across 40 business and occupational programs.

Its mission: “To earn the trust of Texans every day by providing innovative regulatory solutions for our licensees and those they serve.”

The new laws will affect nearly 500,000 licensees, but according to TDLR’s Public Information Officer Tela Mange, changes like these are common following legislative sessions.

“The Texas Legislature has entrusted us with many new or transferred programs over the years.” said Mange.

KXAN looked into the recently implemented laws and found two bills that have changed who can obtain and/or keep their occupational license.

HB 139: Military, Veteran and Spouse Educators

A new law passed during the 87th legislature has made it more efficient for qualified, out-of-state service members, veterans and their spouses to obtain an occupational license as an educator.

Prior to HB 139, the Texas Education Code, Section 21.052, outlined the exemptions to the examination requirements to obtain a Texas educator’s license solely for out-of-state active duty service members.

HB 139 has amended this section of the education code to provide military veterans and military spouses the same expedited procedures that were formerly only provided to active duty service members.

Additionally, HB 139 has given Texas licensing agencies the ability to adopt new rules for how active duty, veterans and military spouses can demonstrate competency by including credits for previous training, education and clinical and professional experience.

The San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (SAHCC) recently issued the following statement regarding HB 139:

“HB 139 will help eliminate some the regulations, streamlining the licensing and certification process for veterans and military spouses. Helping veterans and military spouses secure positions in their chosen career field more quickly not only benefits military families but businesses as well.”

HB 757: Second Chances/Criminal Convictions

A new law, HB 757, was passed during the 87th legislature in response to additional concerns related to individuals being denied professional or occupational licenses and in an effort to further prevent employment and community integration challenges.

The law prohibits denying, suspending or revoking a professional or occupational license when deferred adjudication community supervision was successfully completed resulting in a dismissal after a plea of guilt or no contest to certain criminal offenses.

This is the second time in the last two legislative sessions a new law has brought changes to how TDLR approaches licensing applications from individuals with a criminal history.

In 2019, the 86th legislature passed HB 1342, which amended the Occupations Code, giving individuals with a criminal conviction the ability to obtain a license if the offense did not directly relate to their particular occupation.

HB 1342 also gave TDLR the ability to issue restricted licenses to formerly incarcerated individuals to work as an electrician or air conditioner technician under the direct supervision of a TDLR licensee.

In addition to the guidelines set by these laws, TDLR’s Enforcement Division conducts criminal background checks on every new and renewal application it receives and considers multiple factors prior to determining a licensees eligibility.

TDLR Public Information Officer Mange provided KXAN the following statement about HB 757:

“The Department’s procedure for evaluating someone’s criminal history appears to already conform with the requirements of HB 757. We already consider whether a deferred is “directly related” to the occupation the person is seeking a license for. However, the exception in sec (d)(4) allow the Department to consider a deferred if it is one of a number of certain serious offenses or if it is “related to the activity or conduct for which the person seeks or holds the license.” Because we already do that analysis when we consider what crimes are “directly related” I don’t believe much, if anything, about what we do now will change.”

For more details related to TDLR’s new laws, click here.

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