BY World's Editorials Writers
Friday, March 01, 2013
3/01/13 at 7:08 AM
The Oklahoma House Human Services Committee on Monday voted 6-2 in favor of a bill that would deny Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program benefits - food stamps - to convicted drug felons.
In 1997, lawmakers voted to exempt Oklahoma from a provision of the federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act of 1996, which disqualified anyone convicted of a felony offense involving a controlled substance from receiving SNAP benefits.
Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, author of House Bill 2014, said, "I wasn't here in 1997 when that decision was made, but I can tell you than my constituents do not approve. We are going to undo this mistake and restrict the food stamp program to appropriate recipients."
This bill is a great deal, right? After all, nobody likes a drug felon and we certainly don't want them to eat, at least at taxpayer expense.
One of the drawbacks of a term-limited Legislature is that there is no institutional memory. Roberts wasn't around back in 1997 and neither was anyone else currently serving in the House or Senate.
Denying food stamps might further punish a previously punished woman who once was convicted of a drug crime serious enough to constitute a felony. But what about her children, innocent victims who had no input into her decision to commit a drug felony? Should the state deny them food?
Such unintended consequences worried legislators 16 years ago - a big reason why they voted to exempt Oklahoma from that part of the federal welfare reform law.
No such worries now, apparently. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water.