JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is supporting bipartisan legislation that would “help those that have paid their debt to society” by enabling previously convicted felons to “find meaningful work.”
SB 900 — and its counterpart HB 2123 — repeal regulations that allow the State of Missouri to prohibit felons from working at businesses that sell either intoxicating liquors or lottery tickets. The decision to hire an individual based on an applicant’s previous criminal convictions would be left to the employer. It would be up to the business to decide if person previously convicted of a crime is capable of positively contributing to their workforce.
“If passed, this bill will help find good jobs for people who have paid their debt and give them the opportunity to move forward in a positive manner,” Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said.
The Chamber stated that prohibiting those who have criminal backgrounds from working at jobs that sell particular items is an unfair burden on those individuals. Locations such as grocery stores and gas stations provide numerous potential job opportunities for previously convicted individuals, but such jobs are off-limits under current Missouri law.
“We’re encouraged that lawmakers are focusing on how to remove employment barriers for those with criminal backgrounds, not making it harder for them to find jobs,” McCormick said. “These bills are a step in the right direction to allow the businesses to make the decision on who they want to hire.”
Sens. Caleb Rowden and Kiki Curls are sponsoring the bill that was heard before the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee this week. Rep. Cheri Toalson Reich’s bill has yet to be referred to committee.
If the State of Missouri is serious about allowing these individuals to rejoin the workforce and become self-reliant, the Chamber “urges the House of Representatives and Senate to pass SB 900 and HB 2123.”
Alisha Shurr is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine. She joined the Missouri Times in January 2018 after working as a copy editor for her hometown newspaper in Southern Oregon. Alisha is a graduate of Kansas State University. Contact Alisha at firstname.lastname@example.org.