Source: Associated Press, By: APnewsNow, Mark Armstrong

BATON ROUGE - A bipartisan push to prevent state employers from asking job applicants about criminal histories until after interviews has received House committee backing.

Rep. C. Denise Marcelle, a Baton Rouge Democrat, says her "ban the box" bill joins a national movement to employ former inmates.

“We need to look at ways that we can get people back into the workforce and they become tax payers like the rest of us,” Marcelle said.

The proposal applies to the state's politically-appointed "unclassified" employees and not the rank-and-file "classified" state workers subject to Louisiana's civil service system.

Mark Walters, a former convicted felon, said it took him half a year to find a job once released from prison.

"Through that process of not getting employed I ended up being homeless, I ended up living in abandoned buildingsbecause I made up in my mind I wasn't going to sell drugs again," Walters said.

The House and Governmental Affairs Committee voted 9-1 Wednesday to advance the bill to the full House for debate.

Lawmakers questioned whether the proposal would expose the state to liability and precede future restrictions on private businesses.

Supporters say it merely promotes in-person conversations and would not prevent interviewers from asking about convictions and arrests or performing background checks.