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Regan bill aims to restrict welfare for convicted drug dealers
Though a bill to ban some people convicted of selling drugs from receiving welfare benefits stalled in a House committee earlier this year, its York County Republican sponsor said he's confident the full House will take up the measure when it returns to session later this month.
Rep. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, wrote the measure, House Bill 222, after seeing firsthand as a U.S. Marshal drug dealers with thousands of dollars in cash, likely proceeds from their nefarious business ventures, who were also receiving welfare benefits.
Clearly someone with such a large sum of cash doesn't need government assistance, he said, and they are taking money away from those who sincerely are in need of a helping hand.
"I truly believe in the welfare system. There are people who truly need it, and I get that," he said. "They are the people who get shortchanged, and we want to stop that. They truly need the benefits, and it's being siphoned off by those who don't."
The bill, which was voted out of committee recently, is one of two Regan introduced this session that would put regulations on welfare benefits for those who break the law.
Drug dealers: Under one of Regan's proposals, anyone sentenced to five to 10 years in prison for certain drug-related crimes while they were receiving public assistance would be ineligible to receive welfare benefits for 20 years.
Initially, the bill called for a lifetime ban, but critics scoffed at the longevity, and it was amended.
The current bill also exempts people who were forced into the drug trade, such as a woman who suffered abuse, and minor children of those deemed ineligible because of the ban.
"I'm not attempting to be coldhearted," Regan said. "I think I'm being really agreeable to the other side."
Regan's other bill, House Bill 166, would prohibit convicted sex offenders who aren't in compliance with Megan's Law registration requirements from receiving public assistance. It passed the House unanimously earlier this year and is in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee.
Opposition: Though the drug dealer bill was amended to address concerns, some still remain as critics say it could send rehabilitated drug dealers back to a life of crime because they can't make ends meet.
Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, said it perpetuates the mindset of "once a criminal, always a criminal."
"I'm hesitant about legislation such as this. I think Rep. Regan's bill is well intended and on the surface sounds good, but if you peel back layers, you quickly see this has the potential to degrade our corrections system, the rehabilitation process and increase recidivism," he said.
The House is expected to vote on the bill when it returns to session on Tuesday, July 21.
— Reach Greg Gross at firstname.lastname@example.org.