Legislation to opt out of punitive section of federal welfare law advances | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Legislation to opt out of punitive section of federal welfare law advances

Posted By on Thu, Mar 9, 2017 at 11:27 AM

click to enlarge REP. JOHN WALKER (file photo) - BRIAN CHILSON
  • Brian Chilson
  • REP. JOHN WALKER (file photo)

Hey, hey. The legislature took a break beating up on poor people today. The House Judiciary Committee advanced on a voice vote a bill that would have Arkansas opt out of a section in President Clinton's sweeping 1996 welfare reform law.

Section 115 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act prevents anyone who has been convicted of a felony drug offense from ever receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits. The federal law only applies to drug felonies. Those who have been convicted of violent crimes, for instance, remain eligible for food stamps.

Arkansas would follow states including Georgia and Alabama in opting out of that section if House Bill 1251 becomes law, according to testimony from Omavi Shukur, an associate of Rep. John Walker (D-Little Rock), the bill's lead sponsor.

Rep. Bob Ballinger (R-Hindsville) co-sponsored the bill. He said it was a matter of fairness. Walker joked it was the first time he and Ballinger had ever co-sponsored anything and perhaps one of the few times they had ever agreed on anything.

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