A bill to prevent employers from asking prospective workers, at least at first, whether they have a felony conviction won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Thursday.

The so-called Ban the Box measure, HB1025, is designed to help convicted felons to at least get in the door and be considered for employment, rather than be dismissed outright because of past infractions.

Some of those applications don't ask for details of a felony, but merely have a box that needs to be checked yes or no if an applicant has such a conviction.

"It's designed to make sure that these offenders can actually gain employment, and that their applications aren't just automatically thrown away because they checked the box," said Sen. Michael Foote, D-Lafayette, who introduced the bill along with Sen. Robert Rodriguez, D-Denver, and Reps. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, and Jovan Melton, D-Aurora.

"People just coming out of prison, or people with a criminal record, they just need a shot to get in front of somebody to tell their story," Rodriguez said. "They're more than willing to tell somebody that they have something on their record, but when you don't even get that opportunity with somebody, this opens that up."

Under the bill, employers can't ask someone upfront in a job application, but it doesn't bar them from performing criminal history background checks on prospective workers after that time.

The measure also doesn't apply to employers who are required to get background checks, such as employers that deal with children or financial matters.

The bill cleared the Colorado House in February on a 42-22 party-line vote, with Republicans opposing it.

Despite that, no Republican senator spoke against the bill when it was heard on the Senate floor or in the Senate Judiciary Committee when it was heard last month, though the two GOP senators on the panel, John Cooke of Greeley and Bob Gardner of Colorado Springs, voted against it.

It requires a final Senate vote, which could come today. If approved — Democrats have a 19-16 majority in the Senate — it would head to the governor's desk.

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