The House passed a bill Wednesday that bans the state and its agencies from disqualifying potential employees because of past criminal convictions.

Under current law a state agency must consider past criminal convictions at the beginning of the hiring process, but the bill passed Wednesday would only allow a criminal background check at the end of the hiring process.

Rep. Selim Noujaim, R-Waterbury, said he initially opposed the bill. He said he didn’t think it was fair to offer a job to a person before a criminal background check was done. He said giving something to a person then taking it away would hurt their feelings, so he helped draft an amendment that would have the criminal background check done before the conditional offer was made.

He said it will allow for the background check to be done before the person is offered the job.

Rep. Timothy O’Brien, D-New Britain, said the bill would only apply to state employees that don’t fall under a list of exceptions, which includes law enforcement agencies and licensing of mortgage lenders.

“This gives somebody who has straightened their life out a real chance of showing what they can do,” O’Brien said.

LaResse Harvey of A Better Way Foundation said called the bill a step in the right direction.

“It restores justice to those discriminated against because they made a mistake in their past,” Harvey said.

Harvey said if the bill passes the Senate and is signed by the governor, the state will join four municipalities that already have passed similar ordinances.

Those communities include New Haven, Hartford, Norwich, and Bridgeport.

Click here to read Melinda Tuhus’ previous report on the issue.