Bill that would expunge records of some ex-felons clears House c - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bill that would expunge records of some ex-felons clears House committee

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In this WDRB File Photo, inmates at the Clark County Jail participate in a Residents Encounter Christ Program. Programs like REC help many convicted felons turn their lives around while incarcerated. In this WDRB File Photo, inmates at the Clark County Jail participate in a Residents Encounter Christ Program. Programs like REC help many convicted felons turn their lives around while incarcerated.

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Some say it's about second chances, while others claim it unfairly hides the past.

A bill that would help some ex-cons get a fresh start took a big step at the Capitol Wednesday.

The powerful House Judiciary Committee gave the green light to a bill that would expunge the records of some non-violent felons.

But there are concerns.

For Rebecca Collett, the issue is personal. She served time on a drug charge, but has since turned her life around.

Collett came to Frankfort to plead with lawmakers to pass House Bill 40. It would clear the records of some low-level offenders like her. Collett told lawmakers she wants it for her kids.

“They are very involved in school activities, but because I have this on my record, I cannot volunteer at their school," Collett testified.

Earlier a broad new coalition called Kentucky Smart on Crime endorsed the bill.

Those on both the left and right said it would help ex-felons get jobs and stay out of prison.

“One of the most significant drivers of lowering recidivism, of lowering criminality, of getting people vested back in their communities, is a job,” coalition spokesman Russell Coleman told WDRB News.

But some Republicans have concerns, saying criminal records should not be hidden from potential employers.

“Why shouldn't an employer understand an applicant’s history and be able to make good decisions about not only whether to hire that applicant, but where to place that applicant, and maybe for a period of time, monitor that applicant a little bit more,” said Rep. Robert Benvenuti (R-Lexington).

The Committee passed the bill 15-3, with several lawmakers not voting.

A tearful Collett had mixed emotions.

“The negative things that they were saying, it’s hard not to take that personally because it’s me they’re talking about. But it passed and I’m so delighted,” she said.

Passage in the full House appears likely, but the Republican Senate may be a harder sell even though Gov. Bevin supports the idea.

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