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October 2005
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Action Alert: Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act

This is an alert that has been endorsed by just about every drug policy reform group

Nearly three million people have been displaced from their homes because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Many have lost everything. Yet federal laws prohibit these victims from receiving welfare, food stamps, public housing, student loans and other benefits if they have a drug law conviction. People who have lost everything should not be denied public assistance just because they were convicted of a drug offense sometime in their past.

The [Drug Policy] Alliance held a press conference today with Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), ranking member of the House Crime Subcommittee, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), ranking member of the House Immigration Subcommittee, to announce the introduction of the “Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act,” which would temporarily suspend federal laws that deny public assistance to hurricane victims who have drug offenses in their past. If the bill is enacted, thousands of destitute families that would otherwise be denied food stamps, public housing and other aid because of prior drug offenses would be able to obtain benefits to help put their lives back together.

Introduced by Congressman Bobby Scott (D-VA), the “Elimination of Barriers for Katrina Victims Act” is co-sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), and Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS). Since the bill was just introduced, it does not have a bill number yet.

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Interesting… Only one Republican co-sponsor and it’s the libertarian. Normally a libertarian would not be a strong supporter of government run public assistance, but Paul is independent-minded and smart enough to realize that it’s not just about welfare. It’s also about the unfairness of singling out and punishing a group of people simply because they’ve had drug convictions in their past. I wonder how the rest of the Republican House will vote — as compassionate conservatives, or sado-moralists?

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