Politics
5:40 pm
Thu March 6, 2014

‘Ban The Box’ Moves Forward in Louisville Despite Fischer Administration's Objections

A Louisville Metro Council committee has approved a measure prohibiting the city and its private contractors from asking about an applicant's criminal history until the job is offered.

But members of Democratic Mayor Greg Fischer's administration joined council Republicans to voice concerns about the bill and its additional burden on local businesses.

Council Democrats and community activists argue the so-called "ban the box" ordinance helps even the playing field for residents who deserve a second chance and are seeking gainful employment.

The ordinance has been through several amendments since it was first introduced last September, including exemptions for certain city jobs such as those supervising minors, handling confidential information and certain public safety jobs.

State law already forbids someone with a felony conviction applying for a law enforcement position.

During Thursday's committee hearing, GOP members asked about the cost and had concerns about mandatory provisions, such as conducting a background check.

The Fischer administration also raised questions about the proposal, saying city vendors already frustrated by the application process don't look forward to having another burden.

"One of the complaints I get a lot from the business community is how burdensome the procurement process is to do business," city CFO Steve Rowland told council members. "We like to think people just can't wait to do business with us. That's not necessarily the case."

"A lot of the reasons you hear from the business community why they may not bid on our work is just the time consuming process. And this will be another element to that, not that we cannot manage it but it will be an element to the process."

The city has thousands of private contractors for a variety of services from food vending to construction projects. Among the provisions in the bill is giving the city authority to terminate a contract if a vendor violates the ordinance by asking for an individual's criminal history on an application.

Rowland said there issues with implementation and warned city lawmakers that cancelling certain contracts could slow down city operations.

But Labor and Economic Development Committee Chair David Tandy, who is a co-sponsor of the ordinance, said that is a misperception.

"I think the way things are being portrayed right now is that because we have this type of language in here that all of a sudden government is just going to grind to a halt because now we have somebody who has decided they're going to have the question on their application," he said.

Tandy questioned Rowland on current city practices in terms of agreements with private businesses.

The councilman also pointed out Metro Government can seek out other vendors to perform certain services if they chose to not comply with "ban the box" provisions.

"Are general practice has been and what we will always continue to do is very appropriately and methodically go about finding other sources and entities who will do the work," Tandy said.

Last year, the mayor's human resources director said "ban the box" would complicate the city's hiring process.

Officials with the Fischer administration argue the city already has a similar screening process where they conduct background checks after agencies interview and identify job applicants they'd like to hire. But council Democrats pushing the bill say the policy isn't codified and should be required to protect potential employees against discrimination.

Asked if the mayor supports "ban the box" a Fischer spokesman said they're waiting to see the final draft before making any comment.

"We'll cross that bridge when we get to it," mayoral spokesman Chris Poytner told WFPL.

The committee approved "ban the box" by a 3-1 vote, and it now heads to the full council for a vote next Thursday.

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