First in the South?

RECEIVED Fri., March 25, 2016

Dear Editor,
    Y'all might want to double check Austin being the first city to ban the box in the South ["Austin First Fair Chance City in the South,” News, March 25]. Especially since New Mexico and Georgia have banned it all together. I don't mean to belittle what has happened in Texas, but let's try to not pretend that Austin is breaking ground throughout the entire South. It's really just breaking ground in Texas.
Dillon Johnstone
   [News Editor Amy Kamp responds: It's true that various states and cities have adopted various forms of ban the box/fair chance hiring policies. What makes the Austin ordinance unique to the South is that it applies to most private employers. The policies Dillon Johnstone references in New Mexico and Georgia affect applications for state employment, not private. These policies are commendable, but not all that unusual, even in Texas: The city of Austin, Travis County, and Dallas County all have implemented limitations on when and whether city/county employers can ask about applicants' criminal histories. Austin's ordinance was enacted in 2008. Additionally, Rep. Eric Johnson, D-Dallas, introduced a bill to ban the box for Texas employers last session; although it passed the House, it failed to make it out of the Senate. Johnson has stated he plans to reintroduce the bill in 2017. For a complete list of these laws, I recommend the National Employment Law Project's guide to state and local fair chance hiring policies, which can be found at their website, www.nelp.org.]
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