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Enough is Enough: Local legislators try to replicate “Ban the Box” legislation

By Robert E. Macdonald

Mayor of Lewiston

Now before the Legislature is a bill, LD-288, “An Act To Prohibit Any Question Regarding Criminal History On State Employment Applications.” It was submitted by Democratic State Rep. Bettyann Sheats of Auburn and co-sponsored by Rep. James Handy and Senator Nate Libby, both of Lewiston.

The $64,000 question: What is the purpose of this bill?

The bill appears to somewhat mirror a Massachusetts bill that prohibits, under penalty of prosecution, a prospective employer from asking potential candidates if they have a criminal history. This law is referred to as the “Ban the Box” legislation. The law is nothing more than a continuance of more anti-business legislation designed to punish business owners for some perceived social injustice that has supposedly kept low-born people in poverty.

But unlike the Massachusetts bill, the Maine bill focuses solely on those seeking employment with the State of Maine. This begs the question: Why? This bill does not seem to make any sense.

The first thing that stands out is this: Does a criminal record currently disqualify one from employment with the State of Maine? If the answer is yes, then why are these legislators so hell-bent on removing the box?

If, on the other hand, the answer is no, then why is it necessary to remove the box? What is the real angle here?

Over the years as a crime fighter employed by the Lewiston Police Department, I dealt with many individuals with a penchant toward criminal proclivities. A majority of them I found to be likeable. They made mistakes, paid for them, were released and went on to lead crime-free lives.

But regarding employment, those making the hiring decisions need all the information they can get on every prospective employee to ensure that a person is the best match for the job. By shortchanging the process, it could result in costly lawsuits—suits that could have been avoided had all the information been provided.

In a past life decades ago, that august body from Beacon Hill commonly referred to as the Massachusetts State Legislature, introduced and passed “Ban the Box” legislation. But they never foresaw the harm they would subsequently force on many of Boston’s public school children.

In the early 1970s Boston was transformed from amicable to raw hate when busing was forced on its neighborhoods. Anarchy reigned.

What once were safe neighborhoods suddenly became unsafe and havens for violent crime. The greatest victims were the school children, especially those in the lower grades, who sat terrified in their seats daily while their school bus slithered through a gauntlet of very angry people.

But slowly and steadily a far worse terror was rearing its head: child molestation. Nobody wanted a bus-driving job; without the ability to check an applicant’s criminal background, perverts were able to ply their demented fantasies on unsuspecting school children.

The failure of Massachusetts degree-laden legislators to correct the problem created by this legislation proves that if you can’t get a job—well, there’s always the Legislature.

Congratulations to St. Dom’s Girls’ Hockey Team on their successful hockey season, culminating in the Girls’ Class A Championship. Once again our area youth have demonstrated an outstanding work ethic and drive that exists throughout our community.

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