'Equal footing': House passes 'Ban the Box' measure to give ex-convicts better chances for state employment _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, prepares Tuesday to present legislation to the Louisiana House that would give ex-convicts a better chance at landing a job interview with the state.

The Louisiana House supported a measure Tuesday that would give ex-convicts a better chance at landing a job interview with the state.

House Bill 266 by state Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, D-Baton Rouge, is a measure that “bans the box,” a phrase coined by national advocates for ex-offenders, by seeking to remove the check box on applications that asks if applicants have criminal histories.

“This is just the first step to allowing people the opportunity to get to the interview process, this by no way means saying they’re going to get the job,” Marcelle told the House on Tuesday. “It puts them on equal footing so they are judged on their experience, so they’re judged on their training and they have an opportunity to take care of their family.”

The bill had bipartisan support, as it was co-sponsored by state Rep. Julie Emerson, a Republican from Carencro.

Emerson stressed that HB266 only affects people applying for state jobs and that the private sector will not be affected. In committee last week, business lobbyists objected to the bill, saying it was a “slippery slope” that could end up leading to private businesses being affected at a later date.

State Rep. Rick Edmonds, a Republican from Baton Rouge, also gave his emphatic support to the bill, further cementing the bipartisan backing.

“What are we going to do about this incarceration rate that we have in this state?” Edmonds said. “What are we going to do about the people who deserve a second chance?”

Rep. Patrick Connick, R-Marrero, was among the lawmakers who opposed the bill, calling it an issue of safety. He said people conducting interviews have a duty to ask the questions to make sure they learn about potentially dangerous criminal backgrounds.

Connick said interviewers may not think to ask about criminal records, unless they see the box checked on the resume.

“It’s not that I don’t want to hire these individuals who have reformed themselves,” he said. “I think it’s important to know who you are hiring and what’s in this person’s background.”

Backers of the bill stressed that interviewers can still ask about criminal records and background checks can still be conducted.

The bill passed 53-39, and it moves on to the Senate.

Voting in favor of “ban the box” legislation (54): Reps Abraham, Amedee, Anders, Armes, Bagley, Bagneris, Billiot, Bishop, C. Brown, T. Brown, Carmody, Carpenter, R. Carter, Chaney, Cox, Danahay, Edmonds, Emerson, Falconer, Franklin, Gaines, Gisclair, Glover, Guinn, Hall, J. Harris, Hill, Hodges, Hoffmann, Horton, Hunter, Jackson, James, Jefferson, Jenkins, Jones, T. Landry, LeBas, Leger, Lyons, Marcelle, D. Miller, G. Miller, Montoucet, Moreno, Jim Morris, Norton, Pierre, Price, Reynolds, Richard, Smith, Thibaut and White.

Voting against HB266 (39): Speaker Barras and Reps , Berthelot, S. Carter, Connick, Cromer, Davis, DeVillier, Dwight, Foil, L. Harris, Havard, Hazel, Henry, Hensgens, Hilferty, Hollis, Howard, Ivey, R. Johnson, N. Landry, Leopold, Lopinto, Mack, Magee, McFarland, Miguez, Jay Morris, Pearson, Pope, Pugh, Pylant, Schexnayder, Seabaugh, Shadoin, Simon, Stokes, Talbot, Willmott and Zeringue.

Not Voting (11): Reps. Abramson, Adams, Bacala, Bouie, Broadwater, G. Carter, Coussan, Garofalo, Huval, M. Johnson and Schroder.

Follow Rebekah Allen on Twitter, @rebekahallen.

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