Ban the Box: State leg looks to ban convicted felon question on job applications

New Mexico

A New Mexico lawmaker is proposing a bill to help ex-convicts find work by getting rid of a certain question on job applications.

After the bill was vetoed last year, legislators went back to the drawing board to alleviate some concerns. They are hoping a new governor will lead to a different outcome.

It’s called “Banning the Box,” something groups that work with convicted felons are pushing for.

“‘Banning the Box’ is legislation that takes off the question asking if someone has a conviction on the initial application for employment,” said Esperanza Dodge, Policy Manager at Young Women United.

Democratic State Sen. Bill O’Neill of Albuquerque and Republican Rep. Alonzo Baldonado of Los Lunas are behind the bipartisan bill, and they have been working on it since 2015.

“The point is that people have things in their past that automatically disqualifies them, so what happens is then these applications end up in a wastebasket rather than giving the applicant a chance to talk to the employer face-to-face and explain the circumstance,” Senator O’Neill said.

The bill passed overwhelmingly two years ago but was vetoed once it hit the desk of Gov. Susana Martinez. After making changes, legislators are hoping things will be different with the new administration.

“I think one of the biggest concerns with small businesses is that they felt they were obligated to hire these persons,” said Rep. Baldonado.

But that isn’t the case. The bill would only eliminate the question on the initial job application meaning anyone could still be subject to a background check, and that’s something businesses in the Nob Hill area say they can get behind.

“I think it’ll give some of those who are definitely trying to change their life around especially a little boost of confidence and feeling like they actually have a chance, versus them having to say it up front and then be immediately eliminated,” said Queneesha Meyers, owner of Q’s Cakes and Sweets Boutiques.

“I would still give somebody a chance if I got the right feel for them, but like I said it would be nice to know if somebody was a felon,” said Kenneth Reiss, owner Joe’s Place.

The bill does not say what would what happen to businesses that keep using applications with the criminal history box on them.

According to the National Employment Law Project, 33 states and more than 150 cities nationwide have adopted a ‘Ban the Box’ policy.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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