The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is encouraged about the support the Missouri Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee has for SB 900. Yesterday the committee heard the bill that will find meaningful work for previously convicted felons. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce fully supports SB 900 and its counterpart HB 2123. Both SB 900, sponsored by Sen. Caleb Rowden (R-Columbia) and Sen. S. Kiki Curls (D-Kansas City), and Rep. Cheri Toalson Reich’s (R-Columbia) HB 2123 demonstrate a bipartisan effort to help those that have paid their debt to society.
The bills provide increased the opportunity for both businesses and potential employees alike. SB 900 and HB 2123 repeal regulations that allow the State of Missouri to prohibit felons from working at businesses that sell either intoxicating liquors or lottery tickets. If a business decides that a person previously convicted of a crime is capable of positively contributing to their workforce, the state should respect the decision of that business. The decision to hire an individual based on an applicant’s previous criminal convictions should be left to the employer.
“If passed, this bill will help find good jobs for people who have paid their debt and give them the opportunity to move forward in a positive manner,” Columbia Chamber of Commerce President Matt McCormick said. “We’re encouraged that lawmakers are focusing on how to remove employment barriers for those with criminal backgrounds, not making it harder for them to find jobs. These bills are a step in the right direction to allow the businesses to make the decision on who they want to hire.”
Prohibiting those who have criminal backgrounds from working at jobs that sell particular items is an unfair burden on those individuals. Locations such as grocery stores and gas stations provide numerous potential job opportunities for previously convicted individuals, but such jobs are off-limits under current Missouri law. If the State of Missouri is serious about allowing these individuals to rejoin the workforce and become self-reliant, the Chamber urges the House of Representatives and Senate to pass SB 900 and HB 2123. The House bill is waiting for the Speaker to send it to committee. The Senate committee could pass its version of the bill as early as next week.
The Columbia Chamber of Commerce was established in 1905 and is a voluntary, member-supported organization of business, industrial and professional people who are dedicated to developing, promoting and maintaining a sound and healthy economic climate for Columbia. The Columbia Chamber of Commerce is recognized as a 5-Star Accredited Chamber by the United States Chamber of Commerce.