by Derek W. Logue • September 29, 2018
While America (and even the registry reform movement) was focused on the Kavanaugh SCOTUS hearings, the ability of thousands of registered citizens and their entire families were imperiled. The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (HR 2, or simply known as “The Farm Bill”) make individuals with a sex crime or other offense considered violent offense ineligible to receive food stamps.
Since I am on SSDI and live off a mere $770 a month with no other subsidies save some utility assistance from PIPP, I need the $192 a month of food stamps I receive to survive. I am certainly not alone—the results of a job and welfare study in 2016 found that registered citizens were about 4 times as likely to experience unemployment, nearly 3 times as likely to live in poverty, over 16 times more likely to be currently homeless, and nearly twice as likely to be dependent on food stamps than the general population.i A June 2017 survey of the Alabama ‘Sex Offender” Registry found that 57.1% of Alabama’s registrant population was unemployed, though the number one job listed was “laborer/ handyman” with no work address listed, implying most were self-employed.ii
The previous farm bill added a provision to 7 USC 2015 (Under Section 6 of the Food and Nutrition Act of 2008) which bans those convicted of murder or a variety of sex offenses ONLY IF they failed to follow the conditions of their release (i.e., a “fleeing felon” rule). The current rules disqualify
(A) “The individual is convicted of–
(i) aggravated sexual abuse under section 2241 of title 18, United States Code;
(ii) murder under section 1111 of title 18, United States Code;
(iii) an offense under chapter 110 of title 18, United States Code;
(iv) a Federal or State offense involving sexual assault, as defined in 40002(a) of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (42 U.S.C. 13925(a)); or
(v) an offense under State law determined by the Attorney General to be substantially similar to an offense described in clause (i), (ii), or (iii); AND
(B) the individual is not in compliance with the terms of the sentence of the individual or the restrictions under subsection (k).”
On May 17, 2018, Rep. George Holding (R-NC) introduced H. Amdt. 614, which will remove the fleeing felon requirement, thus disqualifying everyone convicted of certain crimes from receiving SNAP at all.
In justifying this atrocious act, Rep. Holding stated, “Mr. Chairman, I believe we should not have to wait before a criminal who has already been convicted of these acts violates the terms of their sentence before terminating the benefits. Mr. Chairman, this amendment would eliminate the fleeing felon provision from the underlying law and thereby prohibits convicted rapists, pedophiles, murderers, et cetera, from being eligible for SNAP. This is a commonsense proposal that says if you commit these atrocious crimes that you are ineligible for this government program.”
The Amendment was approved and added as Section 4039 under the House Version of the Farm Bill. The Senate version lacks a similar amendment.
First, let’s discuss the bad news—Donald Trump prefers the House version of the Farm Bill because it contains the work provisions Republicans want to force millions off SNAP. The Farm Bill has already passed through the House and Senate. However, the bill has stalled because the House and Senate versions vary greatly and is not expected to pass before September 30. This means talks will not resume until after the important mid-term elections.
What this means for anti-registry activists is we still have time to fight the Holder Amendment. The Senate version is the preferred version because it lacks the Holder Amendment. It is important we take time in October to blitz our legislators as well as those on the Farm Bill Conference Committee. It is important to take some of the education received from the lobbyists and legislators who spoke at the various conferences this year to improve our efficacy. It is important to keep any correspondence brief (aim for a single page with bullet points) which adding a personal impact statement. We NEED personal stories, ESPECIALLY for those currently on the registry WITH DEPENDENT CHILDREN who are currently on SNAP.
It is important to also remind our legislators that SCOTUS has already established that unpopular groups of persons cannot be excluded from SNAP without a valid reason:
“Thus, if it is to be sustained, the challenged classification must rationally further some legitimate governmental interest other than those specifically stated in the congressional “declaration of policy.” Regrettably, there is little legislative history to illuminate the purposes of the 1971 amendment of 3 (e). 6 The legislative history that does exist, however, indicates that that amendment was intended to prevent so-called ‘hippies’ and ‘hippie communes’ from participating in the food stamp program. See H. R. Conf. Rep. No. 91-1793, p. 8; 116 Cong. Rec. 44439 (1970) (Sen. Holland). The challenged classification clearly cannot be sustained by reference to this congressional purpose. For if the constitutional conception of ‘equal protection of the laws’ means anything, it must at the very least mean that a bare congressional desire to harm a politically unpopular group cannot constitute a legitimate governmental interest. As a result, ‘[a] purpose to discriminate against hippies cannot, in and of itself and without reference to [some independent] considerations in the [413 U.S. 528, 535] public interest, justify the 1971 amendment.’ 345 F. Supp., at 314 n. 11.”iii
Oyez.org summarizes the Moreno case as follows:
“In a 7-2 decision, the Court upheld the District Court and maintained that amended Section 3 violated the Fifth Amendment in creating two types of households – one in which all members were related and one in which at least one member was unrelated. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., writing for the majority, acknowledged the interest of Congress in preventing abuse of the Food Stamp program. However, the statute did not fulfill Congress’ stated purpose of preventing ‘hippies’ and ‘hippie communes’ from enrolling the food stamp program. Additionally, there existed other measures within the Food Stamp Act that were specifically aimed at preventing abuse of the program. Since the statute ‘simply does not operate so as rationally to further the prevention of fraud,’ the distinction between households with related members and households with unrelated members did not further the state interest and therefore violated the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.”iv
Also noteworthy, this act would violate the US Constitution’s ban legislative bills of attainder: in federal law under Article I, Section 9, and in state law under Article I, Section 10. (For those who don’t know what a bill of attainder is, it is defined as “A legislative act that singles out an individual or group for punishment without a trial.”)
Below is a list of the members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee.v Even if some members lose the upcoming elections, they should be on the committee even as a “lame duck”:
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., announced the Senate Democratic conferees:
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, Michigan, Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry;
Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont, Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Appropriations;
Sen. Sherrod Brown, Ohio;
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, North Dakota;
Republicans named to the committee:
Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas, Chairman, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry;
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky;
Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas;
Sen. John Hoeven, North Dakota, and
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.
The nine Senate conferees announced Aug. 1 will join the 47 House members named to the committee on July 18.
Speaker Paul Ryan named the Republicans:
House Agriculture Committee
Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-PA)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA)
Rep. Frank Lucas (R-OK)
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)
Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)
Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)
Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)
Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL)
Rep. David Rouzer (R-NC)
Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS)
Rep. Jodey Arrington (R-TX)
House Education and the Workforce Committee
Chairwoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC)
Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA)
House Energy and Commerce Committee
House Financial Services Committee
Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-TX)
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI)
House Foreign Affairs Committee
Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA)
Rep. Steve Chabot (R-OH)
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee
Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC)
Rep. James Comer (R-KY)
House Natural Resources Committee
Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT)
Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR)
House Science, Space, and Technology Committee
Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-LA)
Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL)
House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee
Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)
Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-OH)
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi named the Democrats:
House Committee on Agriculture:
Ranking Member Collin Peterson of Minnesota
Rep. David Scott of Georgia
Rep. Jim Costa of California
Rep. Tim Walz of Minnesota
Rep. Marcia Fudge of Ohio
Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts
Rep. Filemon Vela of Texas
Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico
Rep. Ann Kuster of New Hampshire
Rep. Tom O’Halleran of Arizona
Education and Workforce:
Rep. Alma Adams of North Carolina
Energy and Commerce:
Rep. Paul Tonko of New York
Ranking Member Maxine Waters of California
Ranking Member Eliot Engel of New York
Ranking Member Raúl Grijalva of Arizona
Oversight and Government Reform:
Rep. Stacey Plaskett of the Virgin Islands
Science, Space and Technology:
Ranking Member Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas
Transportation and Infrastructure:
Rep. Cheri Bustos of Ilinois
To summarize what needs to be done:
Contact your federal legislators and as many members as possible of the Farm Bill Conference Committee and tell them to remove Section 4039 of the House Version of HB 2, the provision banning registrants from receiving SNAP benefits.
Write a brief, one page summary with bullet points. I suggest the document contains the following:
A Statement about how the bill impacts you and your family (or would potentially impact you and your loved ones). If you have dependent children, emphasize that fact.
A summary of facts like I have listed regarding high levels of unemployment and welfare dependence among the registrant population.
A summary of the US Dept of Agriculture v Moreno and the mention that it is unconstitutional to pass legislation designed to harm unpopular groups.
Be persistent—most legislators hope you won’t call back and be satisfied with just talking with them once. Follow up after initial contact is made.
We have a short time to influence the legislature, and asking for this one small provision to be removed is within our ability to do so, if you are willing to do your part.
iii US Dept of Agriculture v Moreno, 413 U.S. 528 at 533 (1973). Ifthe statement seems familiar to you, it is because the statement was cited in a more famous case involving gay rights, Romer v Evans, 517 US 620 (1996)