Assembly Bill 218, authored by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature or veto and after 40-seat upper chamber passed it with the minimum 21 votes.
The bill is part of a growing movement called "ban the box" that seeks to eliminate the check-box criminal background question commonly found on sector job applications.
In 2010,l the state moved that question and another regarding domestic abuse convictions from its standard job application to a supplemental form. Applicants fill out the supplemental form when it's appropriate for the work they're seeking.
Like state policy, the Dickinson measure doesn't prohibit asking any public job applicant whether they have a felony record. But agencies can't use that information to screen applicants up front. Instead, employers must determine a prospective hire's qualifications first.
Dickinson has framed his bill as a way to cut down recidivism, because studies show that released convicts are less likely to reoffend if they're employed.
The Oakland-based National Employment Law Project, which has been a key ban-the-box proponent, hailed the measure as a fair shake for ex-convicts.
"A mistake from the past shouldn't be a life sentence to joblessness," Michelle Rodriguez, the organization's staff attorney said in a press statement. "This bill gives hope to thousands of Californians who are ready to work but are shut out from employment because they're automatically screened out from the start."
PHOTO: A line of people wait to talk with PG&E representatives during a Sacramento job fare in 2009. The Sacramento Bee/Renee C. Byer