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Bill to restrict welfare for convicted drug dealers clears House

Greg Gross
505-5433/@ggrossyd
  • The bill would prohibit people convicted of selling drugs a second time from receiving public assistance.
  • A second bill would prohibit convicted sex offenders who aren't in compliance with Megan's Law registration requirements from receiving public assistance.

A York County lawmaker's bill that would prevent people convicted of certain drug crimes from receiving welfare benefits inched closer to the governor's desk on Monday.

The measure, House Bill 222, by Rep. Mike Regan, R-Dillsburg, passed out of the House by a 170-20 vote and is now in the Senate.

Regan, who was a U.S. Marshal before being elected to the House in 2012, said he saw firsthand drug dealers with thousands of dollars in cash, likely proceeds from their nefarious business ventures, who were also receiving welfare benefits.

"If you're making a living selling drugs, we shouldn't be subsidizing that living with public assistance," Regan said in an interview on Tuesday.

All York County legislators voted in favor of the bill. If it passes in the Senate, it will be sent to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf's desk for his signature.

The bill: Regan's bill takes a strike count approach to suspending convicted drug dealers who were receiving state public assistance at the time of their arrest from receiving future assistance.

Under the bill, anyone who has been convicted of drug distribution crimes would still be eligible to receive welfare. However, a second conviction on drug distribution charges would lead to the person becoming ineligible for the benefits.

Initially, the bill called for a lifetime ban on the first offense, but critics scoffed, saying rehabilitated drug dealers could turn back to a life of crime because they couldn't make ends meet.

Regan said the fourth and final version of the bill the House voted on was a compromise bill.

"I would have liked it to be a little tighter, a little more teeth," he said.

Second bill: The bill is one of two from Regan that addresses convicted criminals who receive public assistance.

The second measure, 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 a little more than a year ago but has been in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee since then.

— Reach Greg Gross at ggross@yorkdispatch.com.