W.Va. 'Ban The Box' Bill For Job Applications Fails To Advance After Calendar Removal

Feb 27, 2020

Shortly before the full House was scheduled to vote on it, members of the chamber’s Rules Committee voted to remove a ‘Ban the Box’ bill from the agenda, effectively killing the bill for the session. 

House Bill 4905 would’ve prohibited public employers from asking applicants about their criminal history. The ‘Ban the Box’ title, part of a national legislative and industry movement, refers to area on most applications asking applicants to indicate whether they have a criminal history or not.

The bill would’ve only applied to public employers, on a state or county level, and not private employers. The bill also excluded public positions dealing with law enforcement, community safety, civil service, and those involving direct interaction with minors or the elderly.

Employers would still get to ask about an applicant’s criminal history after granting the individual an interview, or once the applicant signed a permission waiver. 

“What it would have done was take away implicit bias in the hiring process,” Del. Sammi Brown, D-Jefferson, said Wednesday evening. She was the bill’s lead sponsor. 

Del. Amy Summers, R-Taylor, is the House majority leader and vice chair of the House Rules Committee. She said on Thursday the committee voted the way it did because there were too many questions about what responsibilities the bill would create for various involved state agencies. 

Brown called the move a “backroom vote.” 

“I'm a little heartbroken that it was taken off the schedule the way it was,” she said Wednesday night. “It didn't see its day on the floor. We didn't get the up and down vote. I think I could have maybe had a little more closure to the whole scenario if it would have simply been voted down on the floor today [Wednesday].”

Wednesday, Feb. 26, was “crossover day,” the deadline for legislators to pass their bills out of their respective chambers and onto the next body for consideration. 

Brown’s bill passed the House Judiciary committee with a favorable recommendation and bipartisan support last week. It had already been read by the full House twice by Tuesday, Feb. 25. 

“At this point, it's about grassroots movement, it's about the interest of people and seeing if we can get this back on its feet for the next session,” Brown said. She added she hopes the matter doesn’t overshadow the successes of other bills dealing with criminal justice reform this year.

Emily Allen is a Report for America corps member.