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Some with criminal records could get ‘fresh start’ under Grier’s bill

   

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — One of the top real estate agents in the Lake of the Ozarks, is a “poster child for transformation,” as she says of herself.

At 19-years-old, Peggy Albers became a drug trafficker. She was caught, incarcerated, and spent her 30s behind bars. In fact, she was 45-years-old when last released from prison.

“I have spent my life in and out of prison. I am a three-time loser,” Albers said with an abundance of emotion.

Fast forward to 2019, she is the top real estate agent in the Lake of the Ozarks, she makes more money than she ever did before, and gives back to her community — and “pay[s] a lot of taxes.”

But the road from prison to a productive member of society had numerous barriers, obstacles, and turns. It was hard work and she only was given a chance because who the people who backed her, Albers testified.

“I fought for my license and it was a fight,” she said.

Albers was originally denied her real estate license. She was eventually granted a probationary license after the “community rallied around” her. From business owners to bankers to lawmakers, Alber’s community helped her fight.

“[The board] was a group of either 10 or 11 well-to-do people and I fit right in. But it is for the people that don’t fit. It is easy to take a chance on me. But that is where the unfairness comes in and the discrepancy is shown,” said Albers. “I had a good family…but for the people that don’t have the neighbors, those are the people we are fighting for.”

Albers was just one of more than half a dozen witnesses to testify in favor of HB 564, which would allow those with a nonviolent, nonsexual criminal record to get get a second chance.

Rep. Derek Grier presented the “Fresh Start Act of 2019” before the House Special Committee on Career Readiness on Wednesday afternoon.

Under the bill, a person could not be disqualified from licensure for any occupation solely or in part because of a prior conviction of a crime, unless the crime directly relates to the duties and responsibilities for the licensed occupation.

Each state licensing authority would be required to revise its existing licensing requirements to explicitly list which specific criminal convictions could disqualify an applicant, under Grier’s proposal. HB 564 states that disqualifying convictions must be specific and directly related to the duties and responsibilities of the occupation.

Grier said that someone who committed mortgage fraud should be a denied a real estate license. But a 10-year-old DUI conviction does not affect someone’s ability to cut hair and that person should not be denied a cosmetology license because of it.

“When an individual has paid their debt to society, I think it is prudent of us to ensure that we are not putting down further barriers before those individuals to achieve prosperity and success in their lives,” said Jeremy Cady, Missouri Director of Americans for Prosperity.

The part of the proposed legislation that drew questions was the fiscal note attached to the bill.

The Missouri Department of Insurance, Financial Institutions, and Professional Registration estimated that the measure would cost at least $600,000 — $200,000 of which would be additional FTE or legal contract costs.

Grier noted the components of his legislation that are referenced in the fiscal note were also in a bill last year and in 2018 was projected to cost less than $200,000 total.

“I am not saying that is the case here, but in my experience with some of the bills I have had that were going to force an executive branch department to do something they didn’t want to do, that this is the easy way to get out of it,” said Committee Chair Jason Chipman.

He recommended the department and the sponsor get together to work through some of the discrepancies.