Poll: Texas Small Businesses Support Criminal Justice Reforms to Address Workforce Challenges

For Immediate Release: 
Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Latest poll highlights support for Clean Slate policies to expand Texas' small business candidate pool

Austin, Texas — Today, Small Business Majority released state-specific poll data that reveals bipartisan support for criminal justice reforms at the state and federal levels, which includes Clean Slate policies that will address persistent workforce challenges and expand opportunities for entrepreneurship.

In a competitive labor market, Texan small business owners are seeking ways to expand the productivity and diversity of their workforce. The poll shows that 80% of respondents say that one way to do that is by making it easier for employers to recruit from underused candidate pools. 

More than 4 million Texans live with a criminal record. No matter the severity, any criminal record carries a heavy burden that could linger in a candidate's history and appear when an individual applies for a job or a loan. Texas is one of eight states where campaigns have been coordinated to support automatic record sealing. Large populations have been saddled with confusing expungement processes and challenged by barriers in the system. The poll reveals that most Texan small business owners support removing barriers to employment for justice-impacted individuals through policy. In fact, 75% support legislation establishing a process for individuals to petition state courts to seal their records of nonviolent offenses, nonviolent cannabis and drug offenses, and arrest records for those who have been acquitted. Additionally, 83% of small business owners believe that Clean Slate policies will open a pool of job applicants that deserve a second chance, which will benefit small businesses in their efforts to hire and recruit employees. 

"Giving someone a second chance is not only the right thing to do, but it is also vital for the success of the small business ecosystem," said Bailey Delavan, owner of Lubbock Labs in Lubbock. "The workforce pool is currently limited. We know there is a large, underused population who want to work but cannot clear their record for various reasons. Because of a blemish, some employers are unwilling to give a person a second chance. I believe that's counterproductive. I've personally found that justice-impacted people have been some of the hardest workers and great for my business. I hope more smaller firms in Texas will soon be able to grow their workforce through more encompassing Clean Slate laws and automatic recording sealing for certain eligible crimes." 

Despite ongoing challenges related to the pandemic, 75% of small business owners in Texas remain optimistic about their business conditions and 62% will likely add employees over the next several months. This climate has opened the doors for more hiring opportunities; however, the poll also revealed that 56% of small businesses feel challenged when seeking quality candidates. Texas small business owners share support for proposed changes that will help address ongoing workforce issues and expand the candidate pool, such as the following:  

  • 76% agree that removing barriers to employment for people with criminal records will save tax dollars by reducing recidivism and the need for long-term government assistance.
  • 70% support reforms that allow people with old convictions fairer access to occupational licenses.
  • 66% support proposals to end debt-based driver's license suspensions for unpaid fines and fees.

"Our poll reveals that Texas small business owners want to utilize a ready workforce that includes justice-impacted people, but the current criminal justice system has created obstacles to hiring staff," said Awesta Sarkash, Public Policy Director, Small Business Majority. "Texas should automate the record sealing process for those already eligible. Policymakers can improve hiring chances for justice-impacted individuals in this legislative session by supporting policies allowing employers to tap into an underutilized workforce, give more people a fresh start and boost Texas' economy."

This opinion poll, conducted by Chesapeake Beach Consulting for Small Business Majority, reflects the opinions of 100 small business owners from Texas. The poll, conducted from September 13 through September 20, has a margin of error of +/-10% at a 95% confidence interval. Poll respondents identified with the following political parties: 26% Democrat, 35% Republican, and 33% Independent. The Texas sample was part of a six-state poll of 600 small business owners. Read the full report at: https://smallbusinessmajority.org/our-research/texas-small-business-owners-support-criminal-justice-reforms-address-persistent-workforce-challenges 


About Small Business Majority

Small Business Majority is a national small business organization that empowers America's diverse entrepreneurs to build a thriving and equitable economy. We engage our network of more than 85,000 small businesses and 1,500 business and community organizations to deliver resources to entrepreneurs and advocate for public policy solutions that promote inclusive small business growth. Our work is bolstered by extensive research and deep connections with the small business community that enable us to educate stakeholders about key issues impacting America’s entrepreneurs, with a special focus on the smallest businesses and those facing systemic inequities. Learn more about us on our website and follow us on TwitterFacebookand Instagram.

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