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Bill Offering Hiring Protections To D.C. Ex-Cons Shot Down

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Despite threatening to go "on the warpath" against those who opposed his bill, it did not pass on Tuesday.
Mallory Noe-Payne
Despite threatening to go "on the warpath" against those who opposed his bill, it did not pass on Tuesday.

D.C. Council member Marion Barry's proposal to grant new legal protections to people with criminal records was defeated at the D.C. council Tuesday.

The proposal was controversial; it would've banned potential employers from asking job applicants about their criminal histories before extending job offers. Business owners say the bill would've exposed firms to costly litigation.

Barry's lobbying for the measure was also contentious. After threatening to go on the "warpath" against any member who didn't support his proposal, Barry, after the legislation failed, suggested his measure fell short because of the racial composition of the council. At one point, he compared the Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who opposed the measure, to the southern segragationists of the 1960s.

"Six other members of the council who are white are opposed to this bill," Barry said. "If you don't tell me its along racial lines, then you must not be able to count. So I urge this council to look at it that way."

That led council member Catania to criticize Barry for being a long-bankrupt politician who fails to offer constructive solutions.

"I was going to remain silent and not take the bait that has been the stock and trade of our colleague for so long," Catania said, adding that Barry "has long, long ago failed to offer constructive solutions for the problems that afflict this city, and I have had it."

The council plans to take up the issue of employment for ex-offenders when it returns next year.

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