Dear DRC Members and Friends,
I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving this week! But we all know that holiday meals can be a little fraught when people come spouting things they've picked up on social media or heard from fear-mongering politicians. The GOP is already putting its misinformation machine into high gear over the Clean Slate Act signed this past week. The State Party sent out a "toolkit" of very specific materials on this legislation to county chairs, but it can be helpful to all of us to have a pithy, quick set of rejoinders.
If you have someone come at you about the Clean Slate Act, the first thing I would say is, "Oh, you mean the Clean Nose Act?" People convicted of misdemeanors are only eligible if they have an unblemished record for 3 full years after their terms are up. For people with felony convictions, they must stay on the straight and narrow for 8 full years!
Many, many felons will never be eligible for this program. No one who has to register as a sexual offender will ever be able to have their records sealed. No one convicted of a Class A felony (e.g., murderers, arsonists, terrorists) will ever be eligible.
For those who are eligible to have their records sealed, that isn't the same thing as having records erased or expunged. Employers in sensitive fields (such as schools or daycare centers) will still have access. Courts and law enforcement will still have access. So, despite what the term "Clean Slate" suggests, the records don't go away and are available to those who need to see them.
Business groups have been calling for passage of this Act for years. People with convictions can still be very productive members of society, and employers are desperate for workers. Chambers of Commerce and Business Councils all over the state have issued statements of support. Labor leaders are also in favor. This is a law that will help New York's economy.
Finally, these are people who have paid the penalty for their actions, behaved responsibly since their convictions, and deserve the chance to get on with their lives. Don't let the GOP spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt when we have a strong case to make.
You may find this AP article helpful: https://apnews.com/article/new-york-clean-slate-criminal-justice-962777424ddcbfc09cfd48f5ec2d63fd
All the best for a meaningful and happy Thanksgiving.
Chair, Democratic Rural Conference of New York State