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Too easy for Florida felons to regain civil rights

TALLAHASSEE — Attorney General Bill McCollum says the disclosure that the state has licensed some convicted felons as mortgage brokers proves Florida has made it too easy for people with criminal records to get their civil rights restored.

Reacting to a recent series of articles in the Miami Herald, McCollum will urge Gov. Charlie Crist and the Cabinet today to scrap Crist's policy of streamlined restoration of civil rights. In its place, McCollum wants a seven-year ban on felons seeking clemency from entering the mortgage brokerage or lending industry in Florida.

The proposal would undercut one of Crist's biggest policy changes, adopted in April 2007 over McCollum's opposition.

Crist has embraced the idea that released felons deserve "a second chance," and in June members of his administration led a civil rights summit intended to accelerate the restoration process.

The restoration of civil rights is typically a prerequisite to a felon obtaining state-issued licenses in a variety of fields including mortgage broker, the profession spotlighted in the Herald series, "Borrowers Betrayed."

In a letter to Crist and the other two Cabinet members, McCollum wrote: "When ex-felons are able to obtain licenses for positions of trust, as in the mortgage industry, it can be all too easy for the likely recidivist to commit fraud."

Crist's chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, said the governor won't support McCollum's proposal.

"People have to have hope that they can get on with their lives," said Eikenberg. "That's what the restoration is all about."

Steve Bousquet can be reached at bousquet@sptimes.com.

Too easy for Florida felons to regain civil rights 07/28/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 4, 2008 3:20pm]
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