Kentucky's governor and legislature have teamed up to support a new law that proposes to include misdemeanor and Class D felony convictions among those charges that qualify to be expunged. The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce has estimated that over 94,000 Kentuckians would be eligible to Expeal their criminal records.
As a leader in terms of analyzing the economy of Kentucky, the organization has officially adopted the position that the issues these convictions bring in terms of finding work or educational opportunities need to be resolved. David Adkisson, president and CEO of the Chamber, hopes that these measures will help replace the Kentucky baby boomers that are retiring in large numbers.
Similar bills to this one have passed the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives on a number of occasions, but the Republican-controlled Senate has never reciprocated. Republican Governor Matt Bevin has promised to sign the bill if it makes it through the legislature. During a recent news conference, Governor Bevin said "It's important, it's critical, it's time."
Bevin's support is somewhat surprising to some, as he suspended former Democratic Governor Steve Beshear's executive order that automatically restored voting rights to some non-violent ex-cons. Gov. Bevin believed the order was illegal. However, he is unequivocal in his support for this new measure, stating "This transcends race, this transcends socio-economic status, this transcends partisanship. The reality is, this is the right thing to do."
Legislator Darryl Owens, who has been the push behind similar measures for years, believes these statements signify the tipping point that will finally allow him to succeed. "I think the chances at this time are fairly good. I'm tremendously optimistic." Gov. Bevin himself stated that part of the reason he reversed the executive order was so that he could make it "legally, binding, [and] codified into law."
The proposal would not apply to those who have multiple offenses, committed sex crimes, or crimes against children and seniors. Rep. Owens made it clear, this measure would apply to "people who have committed only one felony and have not re-offended. These are people that deserve and require a second chance." People like Rebecca Collett.
Collett is a perfect example of someone who does and should qualify for expungement. Collett made poor decisions in high school, developing a drug addiction. Her missteps led to a conviction for a Class D felony for trafficking in a controlled substance.
With a sentence that recognized that her addiction was a mental and health issue, she served 22-months in a Hardin County jail in a substance abuse program. It was there where she reunited with her children and things turned around, mentally.
"Even with the new direction my life was facing, I continued to face barrier after barrier." These barriers included housing, education, and employment obstacles. Considering a full-time job in fast food is not enough to support a family, she went back to school and will soon obtain her master's degree in social work. If this measure passes, she will also have a clean record – the second chance she earned and deserves.