Two ‘ban the box’ bills progressing

A day after the state Senate approved a bill to remove questions about prior felony convictions on job applications for some state agencies, the House gave final legislative approval Thursday to a bill prohibiting local governments from requiring employers to remove such questions.

Further from the Commercial Appeal:

Both bills revolve around the “Ban the Box” movement, which aims to prevent employers from having check-off boxes on job applications that require applicants to say whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. Advocates of “Ban the Box” legislation say that information on the application often prevents people with any criminal histories from getting past the application stage even if they have lived exemplary lives after fulfilling their sentences, committed only minor crimes or were charged but never convicted.

Senate Bill 2103 would add a provision to state law saying that a local government shall not prohibit an employer from “requesting any information on an application for employment or during the process of hiring a new employee.” The bill specifies that local governments also cannot require local businesses to stop asking such questions as a condition of doing business with the local government, or doing business in general.

House Republican Caucus Chairman Glen Casada, R-Franklin, said the measure is written to prevent city and county governments from telling employers what they can ask.

“Local governments’ role is to run sidewalks, not run businesses,” he said.

The bill won a 68-20 vote. It won Senate approval 27-3 last month and now goes to Gov. Bill Haslam.

…On Wednesday, the Senate approved 25-7 a bill to eliminate the felony checkbox on applications for jobs at most state agencies, except education jobs. But managers could still ask about felony convictions later in the hiring process. The bill is set for review in the House State Government Committee March 8.

Note: A press release on the state job checkbox bill is below.

News release from Senate Democratic Caucus
NASHVILLE – State Sen. Sara Kyle’s legislation to eliminate the check box that asks about prior felonies from state job applications passed the state Senate today with a 25-7 vote.

“We want ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society to find a job and get back to work,” state Sen. Sara Kyle said. “But too often, the stain of a prior felony conviction is an automatic rejection, and many don’t bother to apply. This legislation gives everyone a fair chance to make an impression and land the job that could support a family.”

Under SB 2440, the state could no longer include a question about felony convictions on its job applications. Managers could ask later in the hiring process, but eliminating the check box is proven to give more people an opportunity to make a good impression. Applications for jobs in education are exempt from the legislation and could continue to use the check box.

Companion legislation, HB 2442, sponsored by Rep. Brenda Gilmore, will be heard in the House State Government Committee March 8. It passed the House State Government Subcommittee Feb. 24.

“We know that ex-offenders who get jobs and earn a living are far less likely to re-offend,” Rep. Gilmore said. “Under this legislation, the state sets an example for other employers by giving everyone a fair chance.”