If one spends any amount of time watching the House in action during the last week of the session you are bound to witness a moment or two of legislative drama.
In this morning’s session Representative Karla May (D) introduced HA 3 to SB 73 (Judicial Procedures). Her amendment would allow an individual convicted of the felony of non support (not paying child support) who made complete restitution and after waiting eight years to go through the process of expunging their felony conviction for the purpose of job application. That is, a qualifying individual would not have to report their non support felony conviction on a job application if they met all the requirements stated in the amendment.
Representative Karla May (D), introducing HA 3 to SB 73 in the House this morning.
Representatives Karla May (D) and Stanley Cox (r).
Representative Stanley Cox (r) spoke against the amendment. After the previous question was invoked the amendment was defeated in a voice vote.
There was an amount of frustration and exasperation exhibited on the floor with that outcome.
This is a story about persistence and bouncing back.
Later in the morning Representative May took the opportunity to attach the same amendment language to another germane bill, introducing HA 2 to SB 224 (Law Enforcement Agencies). Hope.
Representative Karla May (D), introducing HA 2 to SB 224 (the same as HA 3 to SB 73
which was defeated in an earlier voice vote) in the House this morning.
Representative Stanley Cox (r) again spoke against the amendment.
Representative Stanley Cox (r).
Then Representative Gina Mitten (D) spoke in a rapid exchange in the form of an inquiry with Representative May.
Representative Gina Mitten (D).
And, later, Representative Nick Marshall (r) (a former assistant prosecutor) spoke at length in support of the amendment, citing his experience prosecuting these cases, a felony where there can be no criminal intent on the part of the defendant (they may have lost their job, they have no resources to pay child support).
Representative Nick Marshall (r).
The tide turned. The amendment was approved overwhelmingly in a recorded vote.
The board for HA 2 for SB 224 right before the vote was closed. Yes votes in green, no votes in red, not voting/not yet voting in amber.
No votes included Representatives Stanley Cox, Dean Dohrman, and Denny Hoskins. They do represent contiguous districts in west central Missouri.
Representative Dean Dohrman (left) and Representative Denny Hoskins (right).
I spoke with Representative Karla May (D) about her amendment in the recess between the morning and afternoon sessions:
Show Me Progress: ….Could you just briefly explain the purpose of your amendment?
Representative Karla May (D): Well, the purpose of the amendment is to give gentlemen who have been convicted of criminal non support a second chance. Um, we have a very punitive correctional system. It’s overcrowded. It’s costing the state billions of dollars.
Um, these guys go to jail, it’s a, it’s one crime that can, you can be convicted with a Class B felony with no criminal intent. Um, these guys have, uh, my amendment is basically saying that, okay, after you’ve decided to admit to the crime, come into court, and they call it suspended imposition of sentence, you come in, they give you a suspended imposition of sentence, you get convicted with a Class B felony.
So, a felony, everybody knows, prevents people from getting employed. You have different companies that don’t hire people with felonies. Period. You know, so, it prevents them, and you can’t get any professional licensing, real estate licensing, things like that. You can’t, no longer work.
Show Me Progress: And, so, so, and so the amendment is, after somebody’s gone through this whole process, they’ve paid their debt, they’ve taken care of everything, spend a long period, and this would allow them to actually be, when they apply for a job they didn’t, wouldn’t have to say that they’ve been convicted of a felony? And, therefore [Representative May: “Yes.”] they could be somebody who will continue to contribute to society.
Representative May: Exactly. Pay taxes, buy a house, you know, continue to contribute to society.
And the thing about it is, you know, some, the court gives suspended imposition for five years and sometimes ten years. So, you have to complete that ten years and then wait eight years before you can even come in to get a one time, one time only expungement. It’s not like we’re opening the flood gates or anything. It’s, a, giving people an opportunity, it’s even giving them an incentive.
Show Me Progress: Well, well, it was an interesting turn of events on the floor [of the House] today when the first time the amendment was offered on one bill it, it went down. And then some people spoke very eloquently in support in, across party lines. [Representative May: “Yes.”] And, and then there was overwhelming support for the bill. [Representative May: “Yes.”]
And, so, the next step is it goes, it’s attached to a bill which will end up going through the Senate.
Representative May: Yes, it’ll go to the Senate. It’s attached to [Senator] Kiki Curls’ bill.
Show Me Progress: Okay. And, uh, do you have good hopes for this?
Representative May: I’m a praying person. My hopes rest with God. I was like, if you want these fathers to have this opportunity it’s up to you. I just walk by faith. I did what I was supposed to do, now the rest is up to him.
Show Me Progress: Well, thank you very much for your time.
Representative May: No problem. Thank you.
The entire bill goes back to the Senate. Hope, again.