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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill to help felons get jobs headed to the governor

Legislation sponsored by Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort  Lauderdale, that would allowing certain non-violent ex-offenders to obtain occupational licenses passed the Senate on Wednesday and is now headed to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. The House passed a companion bill, sponsored by Rep. Dwayne Taylor, D-Daytona Beach, and Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, last month. The measure passed both chambers unanimously.

SB 146 prohibits requiring the restoration of civil rights as a condition for obtaining public employment or occupational licenses such as those necessary to become a barber, plumber or auto mechanic.

As it is now, ex-offenders need to have their civil rights restored prior to becoming eligible to obtain these licenses. In 2007, then-Gov. Charlie Crist began the process of streamlining the restoration process to allow tens of thousands of felons to regain their right to vote, sit on a jury and obtain various state licenses without having to undergo a lengthy review and hearing process. Non-violent criminals would be eligible to get their rights restored without hearings after completing their sentences and paying restitution if required.

At the urging of Attorney General Pam Bondi, that was abruptly halted in March by Scott and the Florida Cabinet, who approved a policy requiring many ex-felons to wait five years before they can seek restoration of their civil rights.

"I am pleased that the Legislature has removed a major impediment to putting people back to work because of their past mistakes," Smith said in a prepared statement. "I urge the governor to back this important incentive that gives ex-felons a chance to support their families and contribute to their communities." 

Bondi, who testified in committee on behalf of the so-called "decoupling" of civil rights and occupational licenses, commended lawmakers for passing the bill.

"SB 146 will both help felons reintegrate into society and enhance public safety," she said.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 4, 2011 7:34pm]


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