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The California State Assembly has approved a bill allowing persons convicted of drug felonies to receive federal food stamps.
The legislation was approved by the State Assembly in a 42-23 vote and was sent to the Senate. The bill allows California to opt out of a law that under federally funded programs, people convicted of drug felonies are banned from receiving aid after they leave prison, the Associated Press reports.
CA State Assembly Bill 1756 has sparked sharp bipartisan debate. The bill is similar to one that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has vetoed in the past.
But supporters of the legislation say it will help drug felons lead more stable lives and that public assistance and food stamps also can help reduce recidivism.
On the other hand, critics say the ban that is in place was intended to discourage drug offenders from subsidizing their drug habits.
In addition, opponents say the bill rewards bad behavior.
The legislation would allow those convicted of drug felonies to participate in the program for food stamps without having to prove they are enrolled in a drug prevention program.
California has about 900 felons that could become eligible for the food stamps, costing the federal government up to $1 million.
In Missouri, state law bans former drug felons from receiving food stamps.
The 1996 federal welfare reform legislation banned drug felons from receiving food stamps, but gave states the option to continue food stamp eligibility. However, about six years ago, California exercised that option with the proviso that recipients prove that they are avoiding drug use.