March 14, 2014: In Adjournment (Legislative Day 39 Tuesday, March 18th)

Status of Senate Bill 365

The bill was assigned to the House Juvenile Justice Committee and there were three hearings on it this week.  At the first hearing on Monday, March 10th, the committee prepared a different version of the bill (known as a “substitute”). This substitute made significant changes to the requirement that private background checking companies not report restricted or sealed records. The new bill allowed these companies to report these records unless put on notice of a restriction or sealing. This puts the burden on the individual to notify hundreds and potentially thousands of companies that a record had been restricted or sealed. The substitute went on to create such a broad exception that it nullified the requirement not to report, even if the individual had provided notice – the company could still report the records if it sent notice to the individual at the same time the report was submitted to the employer or other decision-maker.

I testified at length before the committee about all of the problems with these changes and tried to explain that the substitute completely nullified this portion of the law and was not consistent with the Governor’s Council of Criminal Justice Reform’s recommendations.

We learned that the changes were a result of pressure on committee members from private background check companies, like LexisNexis, who said they could not comply with the provisions of the law. We do not know the specific concerns brought by these companies because they have yet to testify at any of the hearings on the bill.

Despite all of our efforts, including drafting language we thought addressed the concerns of the private companies, we learned yesterday that the entire section of the bill that addressed this issue was deleted in yet another substitute. It was decided that the other provisions of SB365 (including eliminating the automatic drivers’ license suspension for some drug charges, creating the Certificate of Program and Treatment Completion and protecting employers from hiring liability) were too important to lose because of one newly contentious issue that arose on legislative day 35. The bill, without this section, was voted out of both a subcommittee and the full House Juvenile Justice Committee unanimously on Wednesday afternoon.

GJP has been asked to work with the private background checking companies, the Council of Criminal Justice Reform and the Governor’s office after the legislative session to try to come to a compromise for private company reporting. The sentence completion certificate was also not included in SB 365, so we will continue to advocate for it as well.

You can find the bill as passed in the House Juvenile Justice Committee by clicking here

The next step for SB365 is to go to the House Rules Committee, again just a procedural function, and then to the House floor for a vote. The bill will need to pass by the last day of the session, which is next Thursday, March 20th.

How You Can Help

This is a set back and though there is not much more that can be done this session, it is important that the members know that while SB365 was a positive step, there is still more work to be done.

Please call or email your representative and thank them for supporting SB 365. Also share with them that people with criminal records will continue to face significant barriers to employment and that more should be done. Let them know specifically that private background reporting is a real issue and that it needs to be addressed. 

Your ongoing participation has been central to our success and we appreciate it.
 
Thanks for your support,

Marissa McCall Dodson,
GJP Policy Director