Washington, D.C. — Earlier this week, in an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote, the Michigan Senate passed legislation that positions Michigan to become the third state with a clean slate automated record-clearing law on the books. Michigan’s clean slate package is historic in that it makes Michigan the first state to automatically clear qualifying felonies. The full package, which also included several bills expanding eligibility for expungement, is now headed to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s (D) desk, where it is expected to be signed into law. Following the bill’s passage, Rebecca Vallas, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and one of the co-originators of the clean slate policy model, released the following statement:
I could not be more thrilled to see Michigan’s historic clean slate legislation head to the governor’s desk. I’m especially excited to see Michigan build on the success of Pennsylvania’s Clean Slate Act and step up as a leader for the next set of states to take up clean slate, by appropriately extending their clean slate law to include qualifying felonies.
Michigan’s clean slate bill will pave the way for hundreds of thousands of Michiganders to finally be liberated from the lifelong stigma and barriers that accompany a criminal record. And the passage of this remarkable package comes as removing barriers to employment is more urgently needed than ever amid COVID-19. In addition to removing barriers to work for 1 in 3 of its residents, Michigan’s clean slate legislation will help the state achieve a fuller and more equitable recovery on the other side of the pandemic.
The success of Michigan’s tremendous clean slate package is a testament to several years of tireless work by a remarkable bipartisan coalition led by Safe and Just Michigan. The Center for American Progress applauds the Michigan Legislature for taking this historic step and looks forward to Gov. Whitmer signing the package into law in the coming weeks.
A major study on expungement from the University of Michigan found that Michiganders who were able to get their records cleared experienced wage increases of more than 20 percent just one year after receiving a set-aside. Meanwhile, the same study found that the state’s petition-based system was so onerous to navigate, only 6.5 percent of eligible people were able to successfully clear their records within five years of becoming eligible. Streamlining and automating the expungement process is expected to enable hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of Michiganders to move on with their lives and access the second chances they deserve.
Michigan’s final passage of clean slate automated record-clearing legislation comes as the clean slate model has been gaining bipartisan traction in red, blue, and purple states alike. Pennsylvania became the first state to automate criminal record-clearing with its 2018 Clean Slate Act. In the first year since the law took effect in June 2019, Pennsylvania has sealed more than 34 million cases, helping more than 1 million Pennsylvaniansmove on with their lives. Utah became the second state to enact a clean slate law in March 2019, and California took the step of adopting prospective automatic record-clearing legislation later in the year. States as diverse as Connecticut, Washington state, North Carolina, Louisiana, and New Jersey have introduced or passed measures that move toward automated record-clearing, with momentum building in many more for state 2021 legislative sessions. Bipartisan legislation to automatically clear certain federal records has also been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives.