House Committee votes to let felons work where alcohol and lottery tickets are sold

A House committee has voted to allow felons in Missouri to work in businesses that sell alcohol and lottery tickets.

Representative Cheri Toalson Reisch (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

House Bill 1468 would bar the state from prohibiting felons from selling alcohol only because they have been guilty of a felony, and from keeping someone convicted of a crime from selling lottery tickets.  It would also lift the requirement that employers with liquor licenses notify the state of any employees with felony convictions.

“I term this an employer freedom bill/criminal justice reform bill because it does two things:  it lessens the regulations and requirements on employers and it helps give prior felons a second chance,” said bill sponsor, Cheri Toalson Reisch (R-Hallsville).

Toalson Reisch told the House Special Committee on Criminal Justice her county, Boone, has the lowest unemployment rate in the state at less than two percent, and employers struggle to find enough workers.

“We need to give these felons jobs so they do not recidivate,” said Toalson Reisch.  “You can go into Casey’s and they can’t even hire you as a prior felon to make donuts and pizza in the back because they sell lottery tickets in the front.”

ACLU Legislative and Policy Director Sara Baker said the legislation is, “an excellent step towards giving folks a chance at getting back on their feet after incarceration.”

“The biggest predictor of recidivism is if you can get a job or not when you’re out from incarceration, and so the more we can do to lower barriers to getting back to employment, the better chance we have for true criminal justice reform in this state,” said Baker.

Last year the proposal advanced well through the legislative process but became bogged down when it was attached to other legislation.  Toalson Reisch is optimistic about its chances of becoming law this year because it is being debated early in the session and because it continues to have broad, bipartisan support.  She hopes to keep the bill free of other language so it can stand on its own.

The committee voted unanimously to advance the bill.  If approved by a second committee it will be considered by the full House.