House GOP blocks Errington proposal aimed at strengthening Indiana’s workforce, diversity
INDIANAPOLIS – House Republicans today prevented a vote on a proposal by State Rep. Sue Errington (D-Muncie) to allow Hoosiers to petition to expunge misdemeanor marijuana possession convictions, which are major hurdles to finding gainful employment.
Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 255 would have created a three-year window (from 2022 through 2024) for Hoosiers to petition to expunge misdemeanor convictions for possession of marijuana. These petitions would not count against Indiana's current limit of one expungement per lifetime and would not apply to felony possession convictions.
Of 26,125 convictions of misdemeanor possession cases between 2017 and 2019, the Legislative Services Agency found that 86% of them were Class B misdemeanors. This means the Hoosiers who were charged had no prior convictions for possession of marijuana. An additional 18,850 Class B misdemeanors for marijuana possession were filed in 2020, according to the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council (IPAC).
“Indiana pushes so hard to get more Hoosiers in the workforce, yet we place so many obstacles in front of them,” Errington said.
“We are giving Hoosiers a criminal record for something that our neighbors in Illinois and Michigan can do freely every day. Then, after they pay their dues and move on, they are once again punished by employers who are unwilling to hire them based on their one mistake. Those Hoosiers are then put in the tough position of having to choose to either use their once-in-a-lifetime expungement on a simple misdemeanor or continue facing rejection by employers. It's time for Indiana to modernize its statutes and offer Hoosiers a true path forward.”
Errington also highlighted the racial disparity in Indiana's marijuana possession arrests. While surveys have shown that African American and white Hoosiers use marijuana at roughly the same rates, African American Hoosiers are 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for possession.
“Diversity in the workplace is incredibly valuable,” Errington added.
“It helps employers be more relatable and welcoming to their customers, allows more perspectives to be considered and overall boosts profitability. When African American and Hispanic Hoosiers are unable to find employment due to these possession convictions, Indiana ends up with a less diverse workforce. If we want Indiana to be known for its workforce and productivity, we have to give Hoosiers a second chance.”
The Speaker of the House ruled the amendment as non-germane, meaning it was not sufficiently related to a bill regarding expunged convictions.