TOPEKA — A two-year-old Kansas law designed to help former prisoners find employment placed limits on the power of occupational licensing boards to reject applicants guilty of crimes unrelated to the job credential or if the applicant was crime-free for five years after finishing a misdemeanor sentence.

The Kansas State Department of Education and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services are backing a proposal to exempt both departments from the law when making decisions on licensure, certification or registration applications.

Dale Dennis, deputy commissioner of education, said the 2018 law would have forbid the Board of Education from examining allegations several years ago that a school administrator solicited sex from a minor. The administrator wasn't convicted of the charge in court, he said, but the state's professional practices commissioner voted unanimously to suspend the educator's license for misconduct.

Contents of Senate Bill 220 endorsed by the Department of Education and KDADS will unjustifiably add to the list of Kansas licensing boards capable of issuing blanket denials tied to criminal records, said Elizabeth Patton, deputy state director of Americans for Prosperity of Kansas.

She said authority sought by the education and aging departments would "artificially limit the size of their own competition by broadly excluding applicants with criminal histories."

Mark Dugan, who represents Opportunity Solutions Project, said employment was a key to reducing recidivism rates.

"There is no reason to weaken a policy that promotes both second chances and public safety," he said.

That state law guiding use of criminal records in credentialing exempts the Kansas Highway Patrol, the state boards of accountancy, healing arts, medical services, nursing and real estate along with the office of attorney general and the Kansas Department of Insurance.

An attempt to include the Department of Education in the exemption failed during the 2019 session of the Kansas Legislature.