Some Democratic Missouri lawmakers are hoping they can get enough Republican support to lift the lifetime food stamp ban for felony drug convictions.
Missouri is one of 10 states that have not lifted or modified the lifetime ban, which was enacted as part of welfare legislation in 1996.
Murderers, child molesters and rapists can have food stamp assistance but a convicted felony drug dealer cannot.
Sen. Kiki Curls and Rep. Bonnaye Mims, both Democrats of Kansas City, have proposed bills. Mims would put a stipulation that you have to complete a treatment program or be enrolled in one to get food stamps.
Among those urging lawmakers to adopt the change are Johnny Waller.
"I did my time. I got out," he said.
In 1997, he was convicted of possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. Since then, he has graduated from Rockhurst University with a bachelor's degree in business administration. He received a pardon from the Nebraska governor in 2011.
He said the ban hurts many and leads to more crime.
"You are going to have this huge population of people with a lot of barriers who can't eat, whose skill set is mainly criminal or having criminal behavior. You are starving them. They can't find a job. They don't have housing. What is your expectation of that person?" he said. "We need to do something different or we will have this permanent underclass of people who can't get back into society, and then you have 30,000 people who can't return to society."
Missouri Rep. Rick Brattin, a Harrisonville Republican, said he has opposed prior attempts because they were too broad. He said he could back measures like these with restrictions.
"This bill does address a lot more than past years," he said. "That is my main concern. I've talked to police officers, who have busted people during drug deals and they have pockets full of EBT (welfare) cards."
He said lawmakers must be accountable to law-abiding taxpayers.
"We owe that to the taxpayers who are footing the bill that they are not utilizing these for purchasing drugs and turning it into the black market of the food stamp program," he said.
The Missouri General Assembly is in session until late May.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.