The fate of New York's Clean Slate Act rests with the Assembly on the last scheduled day of session for the year.
The Clean Slate Act would seal New Yorkers' criminal records three years after sentencing for misdemeanors and seven years for felonies. It would not apply to sex crimes.
Senators passed the measure 38-25 on Wednesday after debate on the floor.
"We done told you every single reason why Clean Slate can't wait," sponsor Sen. Zellnor Myrie said. "It is a jobs bill, a housing bill, an education bill, an economy bill. This is a restorative bill. It's about rehabilitation. It's about our communities. It's about investing."
The law, if signed, would automatically seal the records of about 2.3 million New Yorkers.
When people are released from prison, their past criminal records often hinder them from securing employment, housing or furthering their education.
"Today, the Senate moves us one step closer to ensuring that all of us can access the jobs, the housing, the education that we need to survive, and not just to survive, but to thrive," said Marvin Mayfield, a formerly incarcerated New Yorker and director of organizing for Center for Community Alternatives.
The legislation was changed over the weekend to allow law enforcement and district attorneys access to sealed records during a related investigation and government agencies authorized to run criminal background checks.
Lawmakers say Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie is committed to passing Clean Slate, but it remains uncertain if the measure will be brought to the floor for a vote Thursday.
"Carl has always been committeed to passing Clean Slate," said Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz, a Queens Democrat. "...We're pushing our colleagues who are in support of this to ensure that they're letting Carl know that this is a priority for our house.
"There are bills that are going to require a little bit more work than others," the Assembly sponsor added. "We have made significant amendments to address concerns folks have to support 2.3 million New Yorkers and their families."
Republicans have opposed the bill, saying it removes the consequences of committing a crime.
"This bill is not a public safety bill. This makes our lives more dangerous," said Sen. Anthony Palumbo, a Republican from New Suffolk, before voting against the bill. "Why are we hiding that fact that someone has the opportunity to expunge a couple of mistakes? They stub their toe in life, we get it. That's available right now as we stand. But under this bill, you get it again and again and again. It's almost like we try to trick business owners because governmental agencies have access."
Gov. Kathy Hochul has also voiced support for the measure.
The bill was nearly included in the state budget, but failed in negotiations over when the three or seven-year wait period should begin.
"Senators passing it is a positive step because, at this point, at the end of session, we're only trying to do bills that will pass both houses that will become chapters," said Assembly Member David Weprin, a Democrat from Queens.