A measure before the New York Assembly that would seal the criminal convictions of millions of the state’s residents has cleared another impasse in the closing days of the 2022 session. This leaves the legislation the possibility of seeing a vote on the bill before the end of the legislative session.
The Clean Slate Act proposed by State Senator Zelenograd Myrie more than a year ago would seal certain criminal records for those that have completed their sentences. This aims to prevent potential discrimination against those with prior convictions in employment and housing decisions. Under the legislation, an individual could have their most recent misdemeanor conviction sealed three years after the adjudication of a misdemeanor conviction and seven years after a felony conviction if they are not under court-authorized supervision such as parole.
The bill has received opposition from many groups in the state due to the wide range of violent crimes that could be hidden from the view of employers, most notably in recent months, this included the State Education Department. In a rare move regarding legislation with no direct connection to education, the department released a memo expressing concerns that the Act could prevent the department from requiring those seeking licensed positions to disclose criminal history performed in New York.
However, according to a sponsor of the Clean Slate Act, the Education Department’s concerns have now been addressed. It could proceed to a vote as soon as Friday, which would be a day after the legislative season’s scheduled to close. The measure has received support from the state’s governor as well, which earlier in the year included a version of the measure in her budget proposal. This was later removed due to concerns regarding what types of convictions would be sealed, among other issues. The governor did not give up on the measure, though, and stated that it remained a top priority once the budget was settled.
The legislation has seen several amendments since its proposal more than a year ago, and the range of criminal records that would be sealed has been narrowed in order to address concerns from a range of stakeholders. The most recent version has received input from the public, law enforcement professionals, the business community, and the advocates who have backed it from the beginning.
In the current version, which passed the state Senate, the legislation provides that records sealed under the Act can still be accessed by entities that are authorized under state or federal law to request and receive a fingerprint-based background check of an individual’s criminal history in relation to an application for employment that would involve access to vulnerable populations including children. However, even after these measures were introduced to the Act, the Education Department did not drop its opposition, and it is unclear whether any changes to be made to address the department’s concerns would require a change to the bill. If this were the case, a new Senate vote would be required, which would appear unlikely at this late date in the session. It will wait to be seen what changes, if any, will be made when the measure goes to a vote in the assembly.
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