OC Chamber Hosts Annual Legislative Breakfast

NEW WINDSOR – Orange County business leaders are concerned about the anticipated state-wide implementation of certain downstate pieces of legislation.

Of particular concern are Ban the Box, a local measure currently enforced in New York City and Westchester County, which restricts employers from inquiring about prior felonies from applicants and the Stop Credit Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits employers from running credit checks on job seekers.

State Senate and Assembly members addressed those with the Orange County Chamber of Commerce at Anthony’s Pier Nine in New Windsor, Thursday, with a clear division in policy from Democrat and Republican representatives.

All of the Democratic officials present, Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D- NY-100), Senator Jennifer Metzger (D- NY-42) and Senator James Skoufis (D- NY-39), agreed with the idea of having the legislation adopted across the state.

Elected officials answer questions during the Orange County Chamber breakfast at Anthony’s Pier Nine in New Windsor on Thursday.
Elected officials answer questions during the Orange County Chamber breakfast at Anthony’s Pier Nine in New Windsor on Thursday.

Skoufis said he believes rehabilitated felons, who have turned their lives around, deserve a second chance at being productive members of society, an opportunity in his experience is non-existent with the felony box on job applications.

“It’s demonstrated through data in every study that I’ve looked at that if an employer has an application, and on that application the applicant checks off a box that they were convicted of a felony, almost 100 percent of the time that person will not ever see even an interview, regardless of how qualified they are, regardless of how rehabilitated they are…period,” said Skoufis. “I think that’s wrong,” he said.

Specific concerns from business leaders included the differentiation between violent, or multiple felonies, as compared to one, or a non-violent offense, and not being able to see certain offenses that directly conflict with their business, such as in the security, accounting and childcare industries, where an offense like a felony sexual assault charge would be imperative to know. The applicability, or conflict of interest, concerns were also echoed regarding prohibition on credit checking.

Skoufis acknowledged this and said if Ban the Box were to be implemented statewide, timing and intense focus of proper implementation would be crucial.

Republican Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R- NY-98) said it’s for exactly those reasons he does not agree with his Democratic colleagues on the adoption of those bills statewide.

“As a business owner, I think you do have the right to know if somebody was convicted of a crime, you do have the right to know, in many aspects, about their credit report because they may be handling finances, or bookkeeping matters, or that kind of thing,” said Brabenec.

“You need to know that kind of stuff to make a smart decision right off the bat,” he said.

The disagreement is not just regarding conflict of interest, but as Brabenec said, it can be a logistical issue as well for businesses to spend time and money on a candidate, only to find out they could never have hired that candidate in the first place.

These laws are still confined to New York City and downstate regions. Although they are anticipated to spread, now having a Democratic majority mostly in favor of these laws, state officials made no statements of a definite vote to make these laws statewide.

Also participating in the panel discussion were Democratic Assemblyman Jonathan Jacobson and Republican Assemblyman Colin Schmitt.

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