The Maryland General Assembly voted Thursday to override five vetoes the governor issued last year. One of these laws prohibits employers with at least 15 workers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until after an in-person interview.
The sponsors of the legislation in both the House and the Senate said the measure has the potential to reduce crime rates in Baltimore and throughout the state.
“We know that 40% of folks that come home from our prisons go back to the same predicaments in 36 months,” House sponsor Nick Mosby, a Democrat who represents northwestern Baltimore City, said during Thursday’s floor debate.
He said giving formerly incarcerated individuals “a fighting chance” at a job reduces the risk they return to crime to pay for food.
Senate sponsor Jill Carter, a Democrat who shares Mosby’s district, emphasized that the measure doesn’t prevent employers from checking criminal histories after meeting applicants in person.
“Before they can be rejected, they at least get an opportunity to have a face-to-face so that they can be humanized and viewed as a whole person, more than just simply the indiscretion or the wrongdoing or the criminal activity that they’ve either been accused of or convicted of,” she said during her chamber’s floor debate.
When Gov. Larry Hogan vetoed the bill last May, he said it would result in unnecessary business expenses. Employers may waste resources interviewing someone they later find out has a criminal record.
He also said the bill’s exemption for programs that work with children or vulnerable adults is evidence that the measure poses some risk.
Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, whose district includes parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, questioned why those businesses should get special treatment.
“You’ve got children and elder adults on a pedestal,” Jennings said. “I think there’s other things up there, too, like gun stores, trucking companies, where you might want to know.”
This law and the other four whose vetoes the legislature voted to override will take effect in one month.