Washington Governor Vetoes University Ban the Box Bill

By Michael Klazema on 6/12/2017
It has become increasingly common over the past few years for employers, cities, counties, and even states to implement policies or laws “banning the box.” This practice, which removes questions about criminal history from employment applications, is praised by proponents as a way to drive criminal justice reform and reduce recidivism. Per coverage, a bill that went through the legislative process would have extended ban the box practices to Washington’s colleges and universities.

The bill in Washington would have made it illegal for colleges and universities to inquire about student criminal history. Per a recent report from The Washington Post, the bill won’t become law. State Governor Larry Hogan, a Republican, vetoed the bill.

The bill passed both chambers of the Washington legislature. According to the Washington Post, the legislation received “veto-proof majorities” and had “bipartisan support.” As reports indicate, despite the supposed cross-party appeal of the bill, Hogan objected to certain elements of it. In his veto letter, Hogan argued that the legislation in its current form would do a disservice to colleges by “curtailing [their] ability to ensure a safe campus environment.”

The Governor has previously advocated for legislation that expanded expungement opportunities, reduced sentencing penalties for non-violent drug offenders, and other changes that he claimed would support criminal justice in Washington.

Per coverage, Hogan claimed that he might sign a future version of the ban the box bill for colleges and universities if it were approached differently. The Governor said he took issue with the fact that the legislation did not differentiate between violent felonies and more minor offenses. He suggested legislation that bars colleges from asking prospective students “questions about misdemeanor or nonviolent convictions while still allowing questions about violent felonies.”

Maggie McIntosh, who sponsored the bill in the Washington House of Representatives, said she was “sorry” and “perplexed” by Hogan’s decision, reports note. She said she would look into pursuing a veto override for this particular bill, particularly considering the amount of bipartisan support it got leading up to the Governor’s veto.


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