News Story

Did The Crime, Served The Time — And Now He Can Make A Living

Scores of occupations require a Michigan license; until recently, this barred those with a record

Mike Grennan struggled for years with a drug addiction, which landed him in jail and prison for 10 years for crimes that included breaking and entering, assault with a dangerous weapon and unlawfully driving away an automobile. Having paid his debt to society and getting help with the other issues, he returned to work as a roofer.

But under previous provisions of the state occupational licensing law, Grennan would have been prohibited from becoming a licensed builder. A “good moral character” clause prevented people who had a felony record from obtaining a state-required license. And Michigan law imposes occupational license mandates on more than 160 trades.

That changed when a new law that passed unanimously in the state House and Senate in 2020 repealed the automatic “good moral character” provision in most cases. The bill passed 38-0 in the Senate and 106-0 in the House.

Until the repeal took effect, those with a felony on their record were limited or barred in trades such as cosmetology, plumbing, roofing, and scores of others.

That reform bill opened many avenues of employment previously closed to those with a criminal record. It let someone with a felony conviction obtain a license as long as it does not become an issue of public safety, the license does not have a direct relation to the crime the individual was convicted of, and the person is not likely to commit another offense.

If the new law had not been enacted, Grennan says, he would have had limited career potential, always working for someone else or under someone else’s license. He adds that under the old rules, he could have found a job, but people in many other career fields, such as cosmetologists, could not work.

Grennan now works for a family construction business and said that having his own license means more than just increasing his income. To him, it means success, freedom, and possibilities.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.