Excerpted from a Florida Politics Blog by Anne Geggis

A Senate panel has approved a bill that would allow an aspiring barber or cosmetologist to be cut loose from a past, nonviolent criminal conviction.

Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando has introduced legislation (SB 42) that would mean a past nonviolent criminal conviction three years or older would not be grounds for denying a barber or cosmetology license. It won unanimous approval from the Senate Regulated Industries Committee.

“When they get out, these Floridians will be able to acquire licenses and become barbers or cosmetologists and therefore gain employment and careers,” Stewart said.

Next, it heads to the Senate Criminal Justice Committee. If it becomes law, will be part of a movement to reintegrate people released from prison into society. The measure also allows the licensing board to accept credits from educational programs offered to inmates.

More broadly, a movement has taken hold nationally to “ban the box” or adopt “fair chance” rules. It seeks to eliminate the part of a job application where job candidates check off whether they’ve been convicted of a crime. Advocates say those changes make it so that one’s past doesn’t prevent employers from considering an applicant’s qualifications and increases the chances a person can earn a living.

Florida does not ban the box, but a patchwork of policies have emerged among public entities that are hiring. The question of past convictions is not allowed on job applications for Broward and Orange counties, or in cities such as Lakeland, Pompano Beach and Tamarac.

But there are limits to the forgiveness that Stewart’s bill envisions.

“It’s not going to apply to anybody that had treason, murder, manslaughter — the really bad stuff,” Stewart said.

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