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Business, Religious and Civil Rights Groups Back Kentucky Expungement Bill

owens expungement

Kentucky business groups are backing legislation that would expand expungements of some felony convictions.

At a news conference on Monday, Kent Oyler, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., said current state laws on expungement are hurting Kentucky’s economy.

The bill in the Kentucky General Assembly would create a process for people convicted of a Class D felony — excluding violent acts or sex crimes — to have the charge removed from their record.

Felony convictions often dash job prospects, Oyler said.

“That hope is diluted by a mistake made in the past that might have been forgiven and repaid, but cannot be erased,” he said. “Mistakes like DUIs, drug possession, shoplifting — mistakes that many people have made but perhaps haven’t been caught."

Businesses are also hurting. Oyler said many employers are forced to turn people away, regardless of how long ago the person was convicted.

“They simply cannot hire them due to insurance policies, contract restrictions, internal policies, grants loans and other things that may restrict a business from hiring,” Oyler said.

That’s why groups such as GLI, Catholic Charities, Louisville Urban League, the local NAACP chapter and the ACLU of Kentucky — among others — are backing House Bill 40, which is sponsored by state Rep. Darryl Owens, D-Louisville.

Owens has introduced the legislation for the past couple of years, but it failed to win passage in previous legislative sessions. If the bill is approved, a person who has committed a Class D felony and hasn’t reoffended in five years could apply to the court to have that record expunged.

On Monday, Owens told a small group of supporters of the bill at the Brown-Forman headquarters in West Louisville on Monday that he was hopeful the bill would stand a better chance at passing now that business groups were supporting it.

“Those sharing in my hopefulness are more than 100,000 Kentuckians whose lives will be dramatically improve when their records are expunged,” Owens said. “In 2016, Kentucky must pass expungement reform.”

In the past couple of years, the GOP-led Kentucky Senate has held up the bill. Owens said support in the House, however, grows year after year. He said he believes backing from groups such as  GLI may make Republicans more inclined to vote for it as an economic issue.

“I think this might be the time,” Owen said. “This might be the year.”

Oyler said he has heard several Republicans say they support the bill already.

“One great thing about expungment reform is that it is a bipartisan issue,” he said.