A proposal to automatically seal many criminal records was approved by the state Assembly on Friday in a milestone vote for a measure that has previously languished in the chamber. 

The measure was approved after an hours-long debate in the state Assembly, 83-64. 

The proposal, known as the Clean Slate Act among its supporters, has never seen passage in the Assembly. The bill is expected to also clear the state Senate, also led by Democrats, which is expected to approve the bill and go to Gov. Kathy Hochul's desk. 

The state Senate in prior years has approved different versions of the measure. 

“The Assembly Majority is committed to building a criminal justice system focused on rehabilitation over punishment," Speaker Carl Heastie said. "This bill will not only help us on that mission, but it will provide a solution to the workforce issues many local businesses continue to face."

If signed into law, the measure would automatically seal criminal records for felony convictions eight years after a sentence is completed for felony charges and three years for misdemeanor convictions. Class A felonies like murder, as well as sex crimes, are not eligible for records sealing. 

Legislative approval of the bill has been long-sought by criminal justice reform advocates, who have argued the measure would aid more than 2 million New Yorkers who have long-standing convictions on their records that have made it difficult for them to find work or housing while also reducing recidivism.  

But Republicans, as well as some law enforcement organizations, have argued the measure will make New York less safe and goes against voters' desire to tighten public safety measures. They also pointed to the current law that allows records seal based on petitioning a judge. 

Hochul has not indicated if she would sign the bill. 

The Assembly debated the measure for nearly five hours on Friday afternoon in a discussion that included a formerly incarcerated person who was elected to the chamber only a few years ago: Manhattan Democratic Assemblyman Eddie Gibbs, who served five-and-a-half years in prison on a manslaughter charge. 

Gibbs spoke emotionally at times about his post-incarceration life and the people who helped him. 

"Unfortunately, not everyone has that path cut out for them," he said. "That's why I stand here supporting this bill."

The statewide organization that represents district attorneys, however, has urged lawmakers to turn back the bill. 

"A clean slate for criminals without considering public safety or the impact on victims is reckless. We hope to continue to work with the Legislature and the governor to expand the benefit of second chances for those convicted of crimes," said Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan, the president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York. "However, careful thought, planning and financial investment are needed in order to accomplish the complicated processes involved when massive quantities of criminal records are set aside. All of the competing interests must be carefully balanced without jeopardizing the expectation of safety that our residents, businesses and visitors deserve and expect.”