Food-Stamp Bill Would Aid Felons; California Eyes Eligibility for Drug Convicts in treatment.(NATION)
Byline: Cheryl Wetzstein, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In California and 18 other states, convicted drug felons - including poor mothers - are not allowed to receive food stamps. That policy could change in California, however, if Gov. Gray Davis signs a bill reopening the food-stamp program to drug felons if they are in drug treatment.
"I don't believe we should punish people twice, and if a court finds that a person is in a position to rehabilitate themselves, they should receive benefits," said Democratic Assemblyman Carl Washington, chief sponsor of the bill.
Mr. Davis, also a Democrat, has vetoed two previous bills on this issue, but Mr. Washington thinks his bill - which passed the legislature in late August - will be enacted because it won't cost California any money and would help feed poor adults.
The other bills, Mr. Washington said, would have returned both welfare money and food stamps to drug felons, and California would have had to pay part of the costs of the cash welfare. The food-stamp program is completely federally funded, however, "so there's no cost to the state." Moreover, "food stamps can only be used to purchase food," the assemblyman said, adding that he is personally urging Mr. Davis to sign the bill.
Many Republicans in the Assembly oppose Mr. Washington's bill because they say it will take welfare reform back to the failed policies of rewarding bad behavior.
"It's not OK to use illegal drugs and expect the state to support the habit by also providing food stamps," said Assemblyman Roy Ashburn, lead sponsor of the state's welfare reform measure.
"The bill would send an indefensible message to California's youth that it is acceptable to consume illegal drugs because the state will give them food stamps. This doesn't promote personal responsibility," said Republican Assemblyman Phil Wyman.
The original provision to deny welfare to drug felons was added as a state option by Sen. …