Senate committee passes new version of felony expungement bill
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.