Lawmakers in Georgia are voting on legislation that would remove the state’s current lifetime ban on drug offenders getting food stamps after their release.
“You can come out of the system having served time for a violent felony, and you can go ahead and apply for food stamps,” said House Judiciary Non-Civil Committee Chairman Rich Golick, who is a Republican. “But you can’t go and apply if you come out on a drug charge. That doesn’t make sense to me.”
The bill is part of Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s joint effort with the state’s lawmakers, Golick said, to pursue “avenues for individuals to become productive members of society.”
The legislation, however, does have its critics.
Hollie Manheimer, the executive director of the Georgia First Amendment Foundation, is concerned that the bill’s additional provision to seal the records of first-time offenders could corrode the public’s trust in the state’s criminal justice system.
“It will alter the public’s confidence in the workings of the justice system and undermine the public’s faith that the criminal justice system is protecting the interests of law abiding citizens,” Manheimer said in a letter sent to Governor Deal.
The Georgia House Rules Committee is expected to vote on the bill before it can receive a full floor vote.
If Georgia does enact the law, that would leave just eight states with a lifetime food stamps ban on drug offenders: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Follow Jerome Hudson on Twitter: @jeromeehudson.