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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Action Alert: Virginia Bill HB136, Prohibiting Employment for RSO’s


Usually I would wait until January before I begin posts about specific Bills for the upcoming 2014 Virginia General Assembly session but for 2 days this bill has been nagging at me. 

The Bill I’m discussing today is HB136 . Now this is the type of bill I would normally not give a second thought to but if you read the below you’ll see the red area that caught my attention. 

Requires any navigator, any navigator's subgrantee or partner organization, certain of their employees or volunteers, and any certified application counselor to be licensed by the State Corporation Commission if the person provides advice, guidance, or other assistance with regard to health benefit plans under the provisions of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Conditions for licensure of these exchange assistors include completing a training program, passing an examination, and submitting a criminal history. Grounds for the Commission to refuse to issue or renew a license, or to revoke or suspend a license, include being convicted of a felony involving fraud, misuse of funds, or misuse of information, being required to register with the Sex Offender and Crimes Against Minors Registry, and knowingly providing inaccurate information to uninsured persons regarding premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions. The bill makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to provide information that the person obtained while acting as an exchange assistor to any political party or political organization for purposes related to voter registration, to disclose a social security number or any other personal information of any individual that was obtained while acting as an exchange assistor, or to encourage or direct an individual to knowingly make any false, fictitious, or fraudulent statements or representations to an exchange or government agency in connection with an application for health insurance coverage, enrollment in a health benefit program, or a subsidy provided under the federal act.

This bill that outlines the Navigators and Exchange Assistors licensing and regulation for the Virginia Health Insurance Exchange does not prohibit these citizens from becoming a Navigator or an Assistor. 

  • Convicted of murder
  • Convicted of selling illegal drugs
  • Convicted of using illegal drugs
  • Convicted of selling illegal weapons
  • Convicted of using illegal weapons
  • Convicted of robbery
  • Convicted of larceny
  • Convicted of selling stolen property
  • Convicted of vehicle theft 
It doesn’t ban All Felons from becoming a Navigator or an Assistor. 

It doesn’t ban All Virginians convicted of Misdemeanors from becoming a Navigator or an Assistor. 

BUT, HB136 does propose that any Virginian who registers as a Sex Offender can not be a Navigator or an Assistors, which includes felonies and misdemeanors. Plus fraud, misuse of funds, or misuse of information which is vague and could be left open to interpretation. I'm not saying its right to exclude people convicted of these three crimes, but at least it’s relevant to being an insurance navigator where as being an RSO and navigating citizens through the insurance process are not connected, at all! 

WHY is Delegate Robert G. Marshall picking on the 20,300+ Registered Sex Offenders in Virginia? 

I thought well maybe there are Federal guidelines already in place and RSO’s have already been singled out and maybe Delegate Marshall is just following the mandated guidelines, I searched the web and found no such restriction.  

Employment is a requirement of probation, employment is also necessary to provide housing, clothing and food for yourself and for your family. 

In Virginia we publicly shame Employers and Companies who hire the best candidate for a job who also happens to be a Registered Sex Offender. We post the Employer/Company name and address on the offenders registry listing so that customers, clients, contractors and anonymous callers can harass and condemn the Employer for hiring a Registered Virginian. Because of this most Employers automatically refuse to hire RSO’s or after a few weeks from hiring decide the public humiliation and constant harassment isn’t worth it, and they fire the RSO.

RSO’s are already legislatively banned from working at schools, daycares, coaching, driving school buses, tow trucks and charters of minors plus holding an elected state position. Then there are businesses that do background checks to weed out the RSO’s but would never admit to it and then there are companies with “No RSO” policies that do admit to it.

Self-employment is usually the only option for a Registered Sex Offender as no employer or company wants  to be bothered, but three years ago the Federal Government banned all RSO’s from being allowed to obtain Small Business Loans, including the misdemeanors. According to the lawmakers and most citizens if you must register as an RSO then you are all the same. 

Barriers like this one in HB136 are not just cruel but they make a successful re-entry back into society nearly impossible.

There is no justified motive to ban RSO’s from applying to the Navigator positions; this proposal is based on false perception, prejudice, hate and vindictiveness. 

Prolonging unjust treatment or control over a group is oppression and that’s what the patron of HB136 is attempting to do oppress a segment of the Commonwealth just because he doesn’t like them not because these positions create a danger to society.

Registered Sex Offenders are any easy target; they make a perfect punching-bag and stepping-stone all in one for career Legislators. I’ve witnessed this first hand for the last 5 years. A veritable parade of malicious, callus, intolerant, apathetic, fear-mongering, myth-based proposals by egomaniacs who crave the feeling of moral superiority at any cost and today that cost is another job opportunity being taken away from citizens and families already struggling to survive.

This bill should be called: 

The Yet Another Job that Virginia’s Registered Sex Offenders (RSO’s) are Legislatively Banned from Having for No Particular Reason, but it Sounds Reasonable and Who in their Right Mind Would Ever Oppose it Bill of 2014. 

Governor McDonnell’s Administration claimed to support the successful re-entry of ex-offenders, removing the barriers that exist so they can become productive members of society. HB136 is not assisting ex-offenders in the Commonwealth it is tightening the noose that is already around the necks of 20,300 RSO’s because of all the previous restrictions and regulations put in place by both State and Federal lawmakers.

HB136 needs to be amended so that any Virginian can apply for a Navigator or Assistors position, equal opportunity for all not just for those Virginia lawmakers personally deem worthy.

Email or call your one State Delegate and your one State Senator asking them to propose an amendment removing the RSO prohibition from HB136. 

Sincerely, 

Mary Devoy