A proposed statewide automatic expungement system has emerged as the latest criminal justice policy initiative to gain bipartisan backing in the divided Minnesota Legislature this year.

The House DFL public safety spending bill that is nearing a floor vote includes the "Clean Slate Act," with a bipartisan mix of House sponsors and a GOP-led companion Senate bill.

Minnesotans now eligible for expungement must petition to have their criminal records cleared, a remedy that proponents of the new legislation say is not clear to everyone. Automatic expungement would apply to certain petty misdemeanor or misdemeanor cases, with exceptions for crimes including impaired driving, assault and criminal sexual conduct.

The House bill's lead sponsor, state Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis, has argued that sealing criminal records for eligible Minnesotans can help those seeking a second chance to find jobs and housing or pursue an education.

"We should give those who serve their time an opportunity for redemption," Long told a House committee when he introduced the bill earlier this year.

The bill is also supported by all 87 county attorneys as well as the conservative group Americans for Prosperity.

Stephen Montemayor