Clean Slate Act passes out of Senate Finance Committee

March 24, 2023 Robert Abruzzese
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STATEWIDE — A renewed bill called the Clean Slate Act could soon become law in New York, offering individuals with criminal convictions a chance to seal their records from public view, after it passed out of the Finance Committee of the New York State Senate on Tuesday.

If passed, this legislation would make it easier for people to access jobs and housing, without having their pasts hold them back.

“Once you’ve atoned for these mistakes, you should be able to move forward and make yourself and your families whole,” said Senator Jamaal Bailey. “You want to stop people from committing crimes, give them a job. You want to make sure you keep people off the street, give them a job.”

The Clean Slate Act would automatically seal convictions for crimes other than sexual offenses, provided that the individual has no subsequent arrests.

For felonies that lasted longer than a year, records would be sealed seven years after sentencing or release from incarceration. For misdemeanors, records would be sealed three years after sentencing or release.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate but never brought to a vote in the Assembly last year, is now up for review again by state lawmakers. The Senate Finance Committee took up the proposal on Tuesday and now that it cleared it could go for a full Senate vote.

Advocates argue that sealing records would deliver a crucial second chance to many of the roughly 2.3 million New Yorkers with criminal records, ending what amounts to “permanent punishment” for those who are denied jobs or apartments because of their pasts.

“The passage of the Clean Slate Act out of the Senate Finance Committee and onto the Senate floor underscores the continued momentum for this urgent and historic bill in lead-up to the State Budget,” Clean Slate NY said in a statement.

“We applaud the Committee and Chairwoman Senator Liz Krueger for advancing legislation that will boost the state’s economic growth, help businesses hire employees, allow people to support their families, and increase community safety. …We urge the legislature and Governor Hochul to pass Clean Slate immediately and bring relief to New Yorkers who have been excluded from economic opportunity, stable housing, and higher education for far too long.”

Republicans oppose the Clean Slate Act, arguing that hiding criminal histories could endanger the public. However, the Business Council of New York State, a usual political ally of the Republican party, has lobbied in support of the bill and claimed it would remove obstacles to employment and help fill a labor shortage. It also has the backing of labor unions and some major companies.

If passed, the Clean Slate Act would generate an estimated annual earnings boost to New York State of $7.1 billion, according to a recent analysis. The bill also has the support of unions representing over 2 million workers, as well as several Fortune 500 companies.

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