With a bipartisan vote of 10-1 Thursday morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed an amended version of House Bill 40—a bill seeking to ease barriers for individuals seeking to re-enter society after having been convicted of a single non-violent Class D felony.
The new version of House Bill 40 that passed Thursday was amended with a committee substitute with language that would require a judge to vacate the felony before having it expunged and limits the number of felonies that would be applicable for expungement.
The majority of the provisions in the substitute come from Senate Bill 298 introduced by Senate President Robert Stivers on the filing deadline for new Senate bills. The main difference between that legislation and the committee substitute is the waiting period for getting a felony vacated or expunged. The committee substitute has a five year waiting period, the number that was in the original version of House Bill 40, while Senate Bill 298 has a ten year waiting period.
Some members of the committee expressed a desire to re-evaluate the issue with a ten year waiting period when the bill receives a vote on the floor.
Stivers explained Thursday that having the low-level felony vacated is a “cleaner way” to wipe the slate clean for the former offenders as vacating a sentence makes it as if the crime was never committed.
Many supportive committee members stated that the process of having a judge vacate the sentence also provides more employer protections as a business would not be liable for any potential issue if the record does not show that an offense ever occurred.
Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Dave Adkisson testified in front of the committee Thursday to express the business community’s support of common sense felony expungement legislation to give people with low level offenses a second chance and get them back into the workforce.
“Our view on workforce is that we need all hands on deck,” Adkisson said. “We are proud to join the broad coalition of organizations looking to help these individuals get back into the workforce.
Speaking on behalf of the new Kentucky Smart on Crime coalition, which includes the Kentucky Chamber, Russell Coleman expressed support of the legislation and thanked the members of the Senate who have worked on the issue as well as Rep. Darryl Owens, the sponsor of the original version of House Bill 40, who has been advocating for such efforts for many years.
Cameron Mills, a former UK basketball player who is now working in ministry, spoke in favor of the legislation and said it is time to give redemption to the people of Kentucky who have made a mistake and “stop treating them like criminals for the rest of their lives.”
The amended version of House Bill 40 now heads to the Senate floor for a full vote.
Another issue with that 10 year waiting period that Stivers wanted, before a Class D felon can apply to get their record expunged is this: Currently the probation period for many if not all Class D felonies is, 5 years. Then, you would have to wait another 5 years to apply for expungement, so a total of “10” years. If they make the wait period 10 years, it would really be (“15”) years before one could try to get their records expunged! 5 year’s probation, 10 year wait with good behavior. The probation period does not count toward the 10 year wait period. So, class D felons are supposed to go 15 years without a job, and then “MAYBE” get their records expunged after paying A $500.00 fee that they don’t have because, they have had no job. That $500.00 fee also applies to the 5 years probation and the 5 year wait period version as well. A $500.00 fee for a “MAYBE” is ridiculous! That’s idiotic thinking by our law makers.
By the time the felon got to the 15 year point, many wouldn’t t need a job, they will be eligible for SSI. Oh, but wait, they were not able to pay into the system because they could get no job. Not only that, how is the felon supposed to support themselves for the15 years. That recidivism rate is still going to be “very” high. A person has to survive someway. What incentive would a felon have to, complete the 15 year wait period? A “Maybe” after 15 years, you can get your record cleared? After you are old, can’t work, and won’t need it anymore? Class D felons would still have to live off the system for 15+ years. Even with the 5 year wait period it will still be a minimum of 10+ years living off the system. Employers would still be without employees because, the bar would be so high to get the record expunged that, many felons would re-offend before the 15 year period was completed. Many rural industries and companies, would eventually leave the areas where they are because, they have shot through the worker population pool, and terminated many people who are then ineligible for rehire. The others will be phased out or quit over time thus, eliminating a large majority of the hiring pool. So much so that, many of those companies can’t get get enough employees to operate effectively and profitably. So, the only ones who would be able to fill those positions, if their records were clear would be, the “thousands” of unemployed felons who could be working for them. This forces may large companies, corporations, and .coms to move to high population cities where, there is a more diverse, eligible, qualified work force. This kills hundreds if not thousands of jobs in the rural areas. You have to remember, there are over 100,000 class D felons in Kentucky who, are ineligible and discriminated against for jobs in Kentucky. There are hundreds of thousands more with high level felonies that, will never get their rights back. At this rate, in the not so distant future, there will be as many people, ineligible for work as there are eligible, and business in Kentucky, and elsewhere will not be able to function efficiently and grow. They may even have to move their business out of the state, or even out of the country to find a viable workforce.