Expungement bill for non-violent felons passes 1st step but will be changed before floor vote

01/29/2014 04:49 PM

A bill to expunge the records of non-violent one-time felons cleared its first hurdle Wednesday when it passed out a House committee. But it will be changed before it’s able to clear the full house, the measure’s sponsor said.

With a 13-8 vote falling down party lines, the legislation affecting only non-violent class D felons cleared the House Judiciary Committee. House Bill 64 would allow for one-time non-violent felons to have their records expunged of felony convictions five years after their sentence and probation is served.

The bill which is sponsored by Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville, is partly modeled after legislation that passed in Indiana.

Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted nearly two hours, often wandered into the legislative weeds over specific language regarding employers who have previously been convicted of a felony.

Republican lawmakers including Minority Floor Leader Jeff Hoover of Jamestown expressed an uneasiness with the bill the way it was written and with a committee substitute version of the bill. Owens said that substitute version was meant to clean up language requested by Republicans. And Hoover said he previously had planned to support the legislation, but was concerned the changes would put employers too much at risk.

Owens told Pure Politics that he is in the process of talking with Hoover and would anticipate the bill drop employment language and become a “clean” bill that only deals with expungement.

After all Owens said it’s all about passing an expungement bill — any way he can.

Owens and other advocates for the bill call the felony convictions “economic capital punishment” that has lifelong effects.

Giving brief and emotional testimony before the House Judiciary panel was Wayne Saylor, who was arrested for cocaine possession in the 1980’s. Saylor told the group that he has been haunted by the lasting effects the felony conviction has had on his life.

State Supreme Court Justice Will T. Scott testified before the committee saying that the current system often builds resentment among those who have served their sentences but struggle to find work. Scott said the bill gets to the heart of fresh starts.

“If the American dream is anything…it’s about those people who have earned it having a second chance, and I think that’s what you’re looking at today,” Scott said.


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