Here’s one idea to help FL workers who are getting professionally punished due to student loan debt

University of Central Florida nursing program photo

A state Democratic lawmaker has filed legislation to ensure that Floridians can maintain their occupational licenses and remain in the workforce while paying off student loan debt.

Several states have passed similar legislation in recent years.  Florida is now one of only 14 states which still have laws on the books that penalize people by restricting their state licenses if they fall behind on their student loan payments.

The bill, dubbed the “Keep Our Graduates Working Act,” is sponsored by Miami state Rep. Nicholas Duran.

It’s definitely an issue in Florida.

Tampa television station WFTS reported in January that the Florida Board of Health sent notices to more than 900 health care workers telling them to repay their student loans or have their licenses suspended.

Under Duran’s proposed legislation, the state couldn’t suspend or revoke someone’s  professional license, certificate, registration, or permit solely on basis of student loan delinquency or default.

The bill is similar to a bipartisan proposal reintroduced in the U.S. Senate earlier this year by Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Massachusetts Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren, which says that any state that receives federal funding through the Higher Education Act would be barred from denying, suspending, or revoking an occupational license or a driver’s license solely because a borrower defaulted on their federal student loans.

Florida lawmaker Duran notes in a written statement that almost 30 percent of Florida’s workforce is licensed by the state, more than the national average, “thus leaving our state and our workers particularly vulnerable to stresses that student loan obligations might place on their professional life.”

Duran says the legislation would let people “continue in their important careers without the fear of losing their job due to their student loan debt, and a reform that will positively impact the lives of thousands of hardworking Floridians across the state.”

The Florida Legislature convenes in January, but legislative committees will begin reviewing proposed legislation in the coming months.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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