On June 26, 2012, Governor Kasich signed Senate Bill 337 (SB 337), which removes, or creates mechanisms for removing, a wide range of so-called “collateral sanctions” against ex-offenders and prisoners who are reentering society. These collateral consequences create major barriers to prisoner reentry and encourage recidivism by ex-offenders by making it more difficult for ex-offenders to find a job, attain economic self-sufficiency, and/or gain a stable, productive life. SB 337 will limit or reduce many of those barriers. Other states have enacted or are considering similar legislation, but SB 337 is one of the most progressive and far-reaching collateral sanctions laws in the country.
SB 337 becomes law on September 25, 2012. However, some provisions will actually take effect 90 days after that date because the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections must issue more detailed rules implementing the statutory provisions during that 90-day period.
Key provisions in the final version of SB 337 include:
- Removal of occupational licensing prohibitions for certain occupations including optical dispensers, motor vehicle salvage-related jobs, construction workers, hearing aid dealers and fitters, private investigators, security guards, and cosmetologists.
- Authorizing an ex-offender to apply to the Deputy Director of the Division of Parole and Community Services or the court of common pleas of the county in which the ex-offender resides for a “certificate of qualification for employment” (with an expedited process) for the purpose of removing employment barriers and restrictions in a wide range of occupations.
- Immunity for employers from negligent hiring or retention claims
- Expanded opportunities for sealing of criminal and juvenile delinquency records.
- Various modifications to juvenile court procedures and its dispositions, including places of detention, sealing of juvenile records, case transfers, etc.
- Driver’s license changes—discretionary instead of mandatory suspension; payment of reinstatement fees in installments; reduced penalties for driving under suspension or for violating the state financial responsibility law; and elimination of requirement for suspension of license of any person who is named in a motor vehicle accident report that alleges that the person was uninsured at the time of the accident and the person then fails to give to the Registrar proof of financial responsibility; etc.
- Creates a rebuttable presumption against a court or CSEA imputing income to an incarcerated or institutionalized parent when calculating child support
- Adds a new child support imputation of income factor (militating against imputing income) for the parent’s decreased earning capacity because of a felony conviction.
- Permits a court or CSEA, when calculating child support, to disregard a parent’s additional income form overtime or additional employment when the additional income was generated primarily to support a new or additional family member, or under other appropriate circumstances.
- Requires a court or CSEA to collect information about preexisting child support orders for other children of the same parents when calculating a child support order to ensure that the total of all orders for the children of both parents does not exceed the amount that would have been ordered in a single order.
- Permits a court, pursuant to a request made in a contempt action, to grant limited driving privileges to a person whose driver’s license is suspended because the person is in default under a child support order.
- Creates a rebuttable presumption against a court or CSEA imputing income to an incarcerated or institutionalized parent when calculating child support.
- Revises the rebuttable presumption against imputing income to a parent who is receiving means-tested public assistance benefits to limit the presumption to a parent who is receiving “monetary income” from means-tested public assistance benefits (e.g., OWF, DA, SSI and means-tested VA benefits). This could mean that a parent’s receipt of Food Stamps would not trigger the presumption.
Although the last change might harm some low-income parents, the bill as a whole should greatly benefit many ex-offenders and/or low-income Ohioans.
Anyone with questions about SB 337 should feel free to contact attorney Michael Smalz of the Ohio Poverty Law Center at (614)824-2502 or firstname.lastname@example.org.