Tonight’s topic on the Dr Rent show (5 PM on 93.3 FM, WNRB-LP) will be the Lead Based Paint “Superfund” bill that I talked about on a previous blog post. Also, that last question I had mentioned in that blog post I didn’t get to, so we will cover that first.
My topic for next week is a controversial bill being proposed by Rep. Schneider (D-WI Rapids). It seams like every legislative session, he tries to somehow restrict access to CCAP. (CCAP is the Circuit Court Access Program, it is basically a searchable listing of public court records that can be accessed through the internet.) Although this proposal worries me A LOT, both as a landlord and as an employer, I would think that the people who should really be worried are renters, employees, and even municipal government leaders. What is the proposal that has me all worked up? In Rep. Schneider’s own words…. (NOTE: what follows is the full text of the memo, in the Wausau Daily Herald Blog post, I had only posted the start of it)
> From: Schneider, Marlin
> Sent: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 12:35 PM
> To: *Legislative All Senate; *Legislative All Assembly
> Subject: Co-Sponsor LRB-0747/1 RE: Discrimination in housing
> or employment with use of CCAP — Deadline January 9th
> To: Legislative Colleagues
> From: Representative Marlin Schneider
> Re: Co-Sponsor LRB-0747/1
> I am introducing LRB-0747/1, Relating to: prohibiting
> discrimination in housing because of arrest or conviction record,
> making it a Class I felony to discriminate in employment or housing
> because of arrest or conviction record, and providing a penalty.
> In response to the opposition of my bill limiting access to CCAP
> last session, I have drafted legislation that disavows the
> restrictions and directly addresses the problem of discrimination,
> particularly in employment and housing. My bill would make it a
> Class I felony for anyone to discriminate in employment or housing
> because of an arrest or conviction record on CCAP.
> I have received numerous emails and letters from people across the
> state who have been harmed by the unlimited and unfettered access
> to CCAP. One woman who wrote me explained how she lost her job due
> to a wrongful accusation and was then forced to find new gainful
> employment. She then struggled to find employment because even
> though all the charges against her had been dropped, the case still
> remained on CCAP. The woman is now working for less than half the
> salary she had previously been earning, prompting her to foreclose
> her business resulting in future financial insecurity for her
> family. Another example was of a young college student who had not
> yet been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. This young man suffered
> from his first manic episodes in his last semester in college.
> These episodes caused erratic behavior and consequently, lead to
> four disorderly conduct misdemeanors and a restraining order. Once
> the student was diagnosed and recovering under the care of a
> psychiatrist, he too could not find gainful employment due to
> discrimination by employers using CCAP.
> If there is going to continue to be open access to all CCAP
> records, I believe the public deserves three things: one, people
> should, at the very least, have the right to know when someone is
> using the database against them so they can defend themselves; two,
> people should have the right to verify if the information found on
> a database is actually them; and three, if the information found on
> the database is accurate, then people deserve to have the
> opportunity to give a background on the events that lead to the
> Ultimately I hope LRB-0747/1 will dissuade landlords and
> employers from using CCAP as a discrimination tool, because if they
> do, and they are caught, they will then be the ones with a CCAP
> This bill’s LRB analysis is printed below. If you would like to co-
> sponsor this measure, please call the office of Rep. Schneider at
> 6-0215 no later than 4:00 p.m. Friday, January 9, 2009.
> Analysis by the Legislative Reference Bureau
> This bill prohibits discrimination in housing because of an arrest
> or conviction record that is more than three years old and makes
> such discrimination a Class I felony, which is punishable by a fine
> not to exceed $10,000 or imprisonment not to exceed three years and
> six months, or both. The bill also makes it a Class I felony to
> discriminate in employment based on arrest or conviction record.
> Housing discrimination
> Current law prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of
> sex, race, color, sexual orientation, disability, religion,
> national origin, marital status, family status, lawful source of
> income, age, or ancestry (protected class), but not on the basis of
> arrest or conviction record. A person who engages in an act of
> housing discrimination may be required to provide such relief as
> may be appropriate, including economic and noneconomic damages and
> injunctive or other equitable relief, and to pay a forfeiture of
> not more than $10,000, except that a person who is not a natural
> person may be required to pay a forfeiture of not more than $25,000
> if the person has committed a previous act of housing
> discrimination within the preceding five years or a forfeiture of
> not more than $50,000 if the person has committed two or more
> previous acts of housing discrimination within the preceding seven
> Current law also prohibits a mortgage banker, loan originator, or
> mortgage broker from treating a person unequally based on the
> person’s membership in a protected class. In addition, current law
> prohibits a real estate broker, real estate salesperson, or time-
> share salesperson from treating a person unequally based on the
> person’s sex, race, color, handicap, national origin, ancestry,
> marital status, or lawful source of income.
> This bill prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of an
> arrest or conviction record that is more than three years old and
> prohibits a mortgage banker, loan originator, mortgage broker, real
> estate broker, real estate salesperson, or time-share salesperson
> from treating a person unequally based on such an arrest or
> conviction record. The bill also makes it a Class I felony to
> commit an act of housing discrimination against an individual on
> the basis of such an arrest or conviction record. In addition, the
> bill requires a person who commits an act of housing discrimination
> against an individual on the basis of an arrest or conviction
> within the previous three years to inform the individual of the
> reason for the act, allow the individual to provide information
> relevant to the arrest or conviction, and, if the individual
> provides that information, reconsider the act.
> Employment discrimination
> Current law, subject to certain exceptions, prohibits
> discrimination in employment, licensing, and labor organization
> membership based on arrest or conviction record. Current law
> specifies, however, that it is not employment discrimination
> because of arrest record to refuse to employ or to license, or to
> suspend from employment or licensing, an individual who is subject
> to a pending criminal charge, the circumstances of which
> substantially relate to the circumstances of the particular job or
> licensed activity. Also, under current law, it is not employment
> discrimination because of conviction record to refuse to employ or
> to license, or to bar or terminate from employment or licensing, an
> individual who has been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or
> other offense, the circumstances of which substantially relate to
> the circumstances of the particular job or licensed activity.
> Notwithstanding those exemptions, current law prohibits an
> individual who has been convicted of certain crimes from engaging
> in certain occupations, including caregiver at certain entities
> that provide care or treatment services for children or adults,
> school bus or human services vehicle operator, alternative pupil
> transportation provider, hazardous materials transporter, Division
> of Gaming in the Department of Administration or Lottery Division
> in the Department of Revenue employee, lottery ticket retailer,
> Indian gaming vendor, viatical settlement broker or provider,
> private detective or investigator, private security person, burglar
> alarm installer, or alcohol beverage seller (regulated occupations).
> This bill makes it a Class I felony to commit an act of employment
> discrimination against an individual because of arrest or
> conviction record. The bill, however, does not apply to an act of
> employment discrimination that is required or permitted with
> respect to a regulated occupation or to an arrest or conviction,
> the circumstances of which substantially relate to the
> circumstances of the particular job or licensed activity.
> Because this bill creates a new crime or revises a penalty for an
> existing crime, the Joint Review Committee on Criminal Penalties
> may be requested to prepare a report concerning the proposed
> penalty and the costs or savings that are likely to result if the
> bill is enacted.
(NOTE: I have also attempted to attach the PDF of the actual proposed legislation. This is the first time I am trying to do an attachment, so I appolgize if it didn’t work.)
What he is proposing is to make convicted criminals a protected class for both housing and employment. So, if someone wants to rent that apartment next door to you and they meet other underwriting criteria however they just got out of prison on a 5 year sentence for rape or assault or drugs or whatever else you can think of, the landlord could NOT turn them down because of that criminal history. As a matter of fact, if a landlord did turn them down, the landlord could end up being charged with a felony.
This also applies to employment. If I have an opening for someone in my maintenance department and I post that job. And I have a job applicant that is fully qualified and the only “black mark” is a conviction for theft (which is a big deal to me because this person will have master keys to apartments where people live), I can not deny them employment because of that criminal record.
This proposal is WRONG on so many levels!!! I could probably write a book here instead of a blog entry. However, I will dedicate an entire show to this topic.
Further in Mr. Schneider’s memo, he talks about a person who has contacted him because they were fired from their job and have had a very hard time finding employment because of a criminal history on CCAP. However, the problem is, this was not THEIR criminal history, it was someone else’s with the same name. I have been discussing this proposal with an attorney friend of mine who also knows of people who have had difficulties because of confused identities.
Now, THERE is a problem I can understand. For those who don’t know, my real name is John Fischer. John is a fairly common first name, and has two possible spellings. Fischer is the second most common German surname and with the number of people we have of German heritage in this part of the country, it is also a fairly common name. Fischer also has two possible spellings. So, if you were to CCAP me without knowing the exact spelling of my name, you would have a total of 475 listings to go through. If you did know the proper spelling, it would help as that would bring the number of listings down to 261. I almost always use my middle initial, so if you know the proper spelling, you probably also know that I am John H. Fischer. With that bit of information, you now have 74 items. I am not going to say how many of those items belong to me, but I will say that more than 70 of them are not.
There is a problem we can try to address: making sure that people aren’t denied housing or employment because of someone else’s criminal history. That is something I would be very willing to help with. However, to solve this problem by just saying criminals are a protected class… with all due respect Rep. Schneider… WHAT ARE YOU SMOKING????