February 21, 2014: Legislative Day 26

Greetings GJP Friends,

Enhance the Chance Lobby Day on March 6th 8:30 – 12:00pm

If you haven’t already done so, please register for Enhance the Chance: Georgia Justice Project Lobby Day at the Capitol on March 6th.

GJP will provide transportation for people traveling from Albany but space is limited. Please call Ms. Evette Mills from Albany Second Chance at (865) 617-2859, or send an email to albanysecondchance@att.net to confirm your seat.

GJP’s Efforts to Improve Senate Bill 365

There was a hearing on Senate Bill 365 held by the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee scheduled on Wednesday, February 19th at 3:00pm.  The bill, as you may recall, eliminates the automatic suspension of drivers’ licenses for some drug offenses, requires monthly updates of information by private background checking companies and deletion of restricted (expunged) records, and creates a Certificate of Program Completion issued by the Department of Corrections that will protect employers from liability for hiring those with this certificate.

Before the hearing, I submitted a memorandum to the members of the Committee and spoke with Senator Stone, the chair of the Senate Judiciary Non-Civil Committee and the sponsor of SB365, and Thomas Worthy, the co-chair of the Council on Criminal Justice Reform and the former Deputy Executive Counsel in the Governor’s office, about GJP’s proposed amendments. Both Senator Stone and Mr. Worthy said the amendments to prohibit the reporting of exonerated first offender records and to protect employers that hire people with pardons from negligent hiring liability are reasonably consistent with the intent of the law and they are not opposed to their inclusion into the bill.

At the hearing, SB365 was presented by Senator Stone and Mr. Worthy and it passed unanimously without amendment or public comment. Senator Stone testified that there will likely be later amendments to the bill, either by friendly amendment on the Senate floor or in the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee, which will prohibit the reporting of first offender records and protect employers from hiring liability if they hire people with pardons.

The next step for SB365 is to go before the Senate Rules Committee, which is purely a procedural measure. The function of the Rules Committee is to establish rules for the orderly procedure and placement of bills on the legislative calendar. Once the bill is assigned to the Senate’s legislative calendar, it will go to the floor for debate, amendments, and voting. If the bill passes out of the Senate, it will go over to the House where it will be considered by the House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee.

How You Can Help

It is important that before the bill goes to the Senate floor, senators know there is broad support for both the bill and for the amendments.  Please call your senator and tell him or her you support SB365 and the law should also reduce the barrier to employment for first-time offenders and those who have been pardoned. You can find your senator by clicking here.

Here are some talking points to share with your senator in support of the amendments:

Georgia Should Keep Its Promise of a Second Chance to First Offenders

  • Georgia’s “second chance law” makes two promises to certain first-time offenders that successfully complete their sentence: 1) there will be no conviction, and 2) the case will not be reported to employers.
  • The promise that the record will not be reported is often unfulfilled because private companies continue to report the case to employers which results in denied opportunities.
  • Georgia should keep its promise and prohibit these companies from reporting records of successfully completed first offender cases.

A Pardon Should Protect an Employer from Hiring Liability

  • The pardon in Georgia is an order of official forgiveness granted to those who maintain a good reputation in their community for at least five years after the completion of their sentence.
  • Those with pardons have demonstrated they are rehabilitated and that they do not pose a recidivism risk.
  • One reason pardons are not very helpful in securing jobs is because employers do not want to expose themselves to negligent hiring liability.
  • Georgia should protect employers from negligent hiring liability if they hire people with pardons.   

Your ongoing participation is central to our success and we appreciate it.

Thanks for your support,

Marissa McCall Dodson

GJP Policy Director