Bill aims to restore rights of ex-felons

04/30/09 Mitch E. Perry
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The Florida Senate today moved a bill that would remove barriers to employment for persons with past felony convictions whose civil rights have not been restored. The bill is sponsored by Sen. Fredericka Wilson.

Two years ago, Gov. Charlie Crist signed an executive order that was to have automatically restored the civil rights of over 100,000 ex-felons in the state.

But the ACLU has shows that the current civil rights restoration process lacks clarity and uniformity, and is excessively burdensome for Floridians who are trying to regain their right to vote, as well as other civil rights including eligibility for dozens of state occupational licenses.

Wilson said her bill addresses that problem. She said the Sheriffs Association and the FDLE don’t have major issues with the bill.

Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville, told his colleagues that it was important to get strong support for the bill if it is to have any chance of passage in the more conservative House of Representatives. King said virtually the same bill passed unanimously through the Senate last year; by removing prohibitions on licensing and employment of ex-offenders, it would lead to a better transition and lower rate of recidivism among people who are re-entering society and the workforce.

The bill also contains provisions that protect public safety and shields potential employers from civil liability due to an allegation of negligent hiring by requiring the employer to review and consider the results of investigations of the applicant’s criminal background The bill will go through the Senate one more time before being voted on.

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