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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

S954-Federal Farm Bill in U.S. Senate to Deny Food Stamps to “Rapists” and “Pedophiles”


 

This is Federal Legislation not State Legislation and some readers get confused about this so I’m going to side step for a minute. 

  • State laws are proposed every January through February (odd years) or March (even years) in Richmond Virginia by State Delegates and Senators. If the bill passes through both chambers it is then sent to the Governor to be signed into law, amended or vetoed and if is signed into law it becomes law only in Virginia on July 1st.
  • Federal laws are proposed year round in Washington D.C. by Virginia Representatives elected to the U.S. Congress (House) and the U.S. Senate.  If the bill passes through both chambers it is then sent to the President of  the United States to be signed into law, amended or vetoed and they apply to all 50 states.

 OK, back to this pending bill. 

Before this blog was started on June 30, 2013 the U.S. Senate version of the 2013 Farm Bill S954 was being amended, debated, criticized and voted on for 6 weeks. Separately there was a U.S. House version  moving along independently and in my opinion it was a little bit better than the Senate version but still bad but it was “killed” so I’m not going to cover it here unless it is brought back to life down the road. 

U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow-(MI) the Chairwomen of the Senate Agriculture Committee is the patron for S954-The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2013. It was introduced on May 14, 2013 and in less than 9 days had more than 150 amendments; one particular amendment is the focus of today’s post. 

If you are as appalled as I am after reading this full post I ask that you contact your one U.S. Congress Representative who could require the Vitter amendment be removed before it is voted on. I also ask that you contact both U.S. Senators from Virginia who participated in the June 10th  66-47 passage of S954 including the Vitter amendment. Tim Kaine (D-VA), voted Yea and Mark Warner (D-VA), Not Voting.  

The Vitter Amendment 

On May 21, 2013 U.S. Senator David Vitter (LA) offered up this amendment to the Farm Bill with no argument or concern from any Senate member. To “end food stamp eligibility for convicted violent rapists, pedophiles, and murderers”. Vitter’s amendment would also prohibit States the ability to opt out of this mandate as they can now do with drug convictions. 

What is the definition of “violent rapist” or “pedophile”? Who specifically would be swept up by theses vague terms?  

There is no specific federal definition of either term.  

Each State charges and sentences rape, sodomy, object sexual penetration, crimes against nature, indecent liberties, carnal knowledge and possession, distribution or production of child pornography (including sexting) all differently. Almost all of these crimes in many cases could be statutory offenses but in many States like Virginia they don’t specify or charge it as a “statutory” offense.   

Thirty-one States and the District of Columbia’s age of consent is 16 years old, in seven States it is 17 years old and then the remaining twelve States the age of consent is 18. The person below the age of consent who participates in any consensual act is a victim according to law because they aren’t old enough to consent and the older person is a perpetrator and labeled a rapist, pervert, predator or pedophile for life. In most States like Virginia there is an age gap allowance if both parties are below the age of consent. If the age difference between the participants is one month greater than the allowed gap then a crime has occurred and the same fate follows. 

Some of the offenses listed above could be misdemeanors in some States and in others they are felonies.  
 
The official definition of pedophile is an adult that is sexual attracted to a pre-pubescent teen that would be 11 years or younger. 

What if the Vitter amendment was applied to those deemed most dangerous, in the highest tier? That’s not a viable option because no two States classify Registered Sexual Offenders equally. In some States they are all in one big group with no ranking at all. In other States they have 2 groups and still in other States there are 3 groups of offenders. Plus over the years many States Legislatures including Virginia (2006 and 2008) retroactively and with no due process increased people’s classifications. How are State classifications based? In some States they are based on the final conviction or plea deal which could have been downgraded from the original charge and other States classifications are based on a mental evaluation or predisposition to re-offend. 

Some States require only felonies to register while other States list both misdemeanors and felonies. 

With these variations from State to State, how could Senator Vitter’s “rapist and pedophile” amendment be administered uniformly in 50 States when determining food stamp eligibility? It couldn’t. Instead, the only option would be  to apply it  to ALL 750,000+ Registered Sex Offenders in the U.S. Including Romeo and Juliet cases, Sexual Assault cases which do include buttock or breast grabs, public urinator’s, streaker’s and mooner’s. Not exactly, dangerous rapists and pedophiles and even if they were, this amendment is reprehensible. 

In 2011 members of Congress excluded Registered Sex Offenders from the Unemployment Benefit Extension Act and currently there is a bill to revoke gun ownership for anyone with a misdemeanor sexual conviction. 

Federal law already prohibits all 750,000+ Registered Sex Offenders from accessing

·         Section 8 HUD Housing
·         Earned Military Benefits, including burial rights in military cemeteries
·         Small Business Loans 

Self-employment is usually the only option for a Registered Sex Offender as no employer or company wants the shame and criticism that comes along with having their business listed on the National and State public Sex Offender Registries, but without a small business loan that option is not viable. 

Registered Sex Offenders are U.S. citizens, they pay taxes and many are voters. They were convicted of a crime, most of them (92+%) took a plea deal out of fear, ignorance or financial necessity and they accepted the sentence that was handed down by the judge or the jury. They paid their court ordered debt to society and they were released back into society with the lifetime label of Sex Offender and are told to become productive citizens. 

How can they succeed when basic social services like housing, unemployment, business loans and food stamps that are available to all of our other citizens in times of need are not available to them, their spouses or their children? 

Barriers like these are not just cruel but they make a successful re-entry nearly impossible. 

Registered Sex Offenders are any easy target; they make a perfect punching-bag and stepping-stone all in one for career Legislators. I’ve witnessed this first hand for the last 5 years. A veritable parade of malicious, callus, intolerant, apathetic, fear-mongering, myth-based proposals by egomaniacs who crave the feeling of moral superiority at any cost and today that cost is the slow starvation of families already struggling to survive. 

Vitter’s deplorable attempt to revoke RSO’s access to food stamps isn’t really a surprise to me but just another disappointment in what our country and its elected leaders have become. I fear what lays ahead in future legislation against RSO’s and their families. Maybe denying them Federal relief when they’ve been impacted by a tornado, a hurricane or an earthquake, maybe revoking their Social Security or disability benefits? Sadly, somewhere an elected official is reading these very words and thinking, that’s a great idea. 

Senator Vitter’s amendment has nothing to do with pubic safety, its punitive through and through. He is sending the same message hundreds of State and Federal Legislators before him have been allowed to send because no wants to risk their career defending the indefensible. That no punishment will ever be sufficient, no forgiveness will ever be allowed. We may be a country of Christians who believe in forgiveness, second chances and redemption but you are unworthy and unfit to be part of our society. We loath your very existence and we will do everything possible to punish, banish, shun and destroy you. We will take away every right, freedom, benefit, opportunity and support system you have until we are rid of you and your kind. 

When there is no light at the end of the tunnel, when basic and humane social services are routinely stripped away because those with the power repeatedly claim you are worthless it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.  

When a person is left with no other options to survive they will commit a crime, the only question is how severe or violent will that crime be? Will they commit a minimal crime so they spend a few years in prison where they’ll have clean clothes, shoes, a bed, heat in the winter and 2-3 meals a day? Or will the anger of being discarded as the scum-of-the-earth make them lose all hope and sanity and result in them committing an extremely violent, heinous and mass crime of despair?  

I have no doubt that if Senator Vitter’s amendment becomes law, many affected will turn to crime. Many families will fracture leaving the RSO without the emotional support they have today and finally many will starve to death. One new crime, one fractured family or one death because of this amendment is one too many. 

This amendment and every vote for it, is Government sponsored murder by starvation.
 

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 Are you appalled?  Are you angry? 

If you are, please call or email your Virginia Congressional Representative today! 

If you want to do even more, here is every member of the U.S. House Agriculture Committee 

Congress member
 
Agricultural Assistant
Party
D.C. Main Phone
D.C. Office/ Mailing Address
Frank Lucas -  Chairman
Oklahoma
R
202-225-5565
2311 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Collin Peterson
Minnesota
D
202-225-2165
2109 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Bob Goodlatte  -       Vice Chair
Virginia
R
202-225-5431
2309 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Steve King
Iowa
R
202-225-4426
2210 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Mike McIntyre
North Carolina
D
202-225-2731
2428 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
David Scott
Georgia
D
202-225-2939
225 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Randy Neugebauer
Texas
R
202-225-4005
1424 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Mike Rogers
Alabama
R
202-225-3261
324 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Jim Costa
California
D
202-225-3341
1314 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Timothy Walz
Minnesota
D
202-225-2472
1034 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
K. Michael Conaway
Texas
R
202-225-3605
2430 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Glenn Thompson
Pennsylvania
R
202-225-5121
124 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Kurt Schrader
Oregon
Christopher Huckleberry-                                         huck@mail.house.gov
D
202-225-5711
108 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Marcia Fudge
Ohio
D
202-225-7032
2344 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Bob Gibbs
Ohio
R
202-225-6265
329 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Austin Scott
Georgia
R
202-225-6531
516 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
James McGovern
Massachusetts
D
202-225-6101
438 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Suzan DelBene
Washington
D
202-225-6311
318 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Scott Tipton
Colorado
R
202-225-4761
218 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Eric "Rick" Crawford
Arkansas
R
202-225-4076
1711 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Gloria Negrete McLeod
California
D
202-225-6161
1641 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Filemon Vela
Texas
D
202-225-9901
437 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Martha Roby
Alabama
R
202-225-2901
428 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Scott DesJarlais
Tennessee
R
202-225-6831
413 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Michelle Lujan Grisham
New Mexico
D
202-225-6316
214 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ann Kuster
New Hampshire
D
202-225-5206
137 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Christopher Gibson
New York
R
202-225-5614
1708 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Vicky Hartzler
Missouri
R
202-225-2876
1023 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Richard Nolan
Minnesota
D
202-225-6211
2447 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Pete Gallego
Texas
D
202-225-4511
431 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Reid Ribble
Wisconsin
R
202-225-5665
1513 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Kristi Noem
South Dakota
R
202-225-2801
1323 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
William Enyart
Illinois
D
202-225-5661
1722 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Juan Vargas
California
D
202-225-8045
1605 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dan Benishek
Michigan
R
202-225-4735
514 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Jeff Denham
California
R
202-225-4540
1730 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Cheri Bustos
Illinois
D
202-225-5905
1009 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Sean Patrick Maloney
New York
D
202-225-5441
1529 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Stephen Lee Fincher
Tennessee
Chris Davis-                                         c.davis@mail.house.gov
R
202-225-4714
1118 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Doug LaMalfa
California
R
202-225-3076
506 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Joe Courtney
Connecticut
D
202-225-2076
2348 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
John Garamendi
California
D
202-225-1880
2438 Rayburn House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Richard Hudson
North Carolina
R
202-225-3715
429 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Rodney Davis
Illinois
R
202-225-2371
1740 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Chris Collins
New York
R
202-225-5265
1117 Longworth House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515
Ted Yoho
Florida
R
202-225-5744
511 Cannon House Bldg
Washington, D.C. 20515

 

 

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 Articles and Op/Ed’s on the Vitter Amendment:
 
Senate passes farm bill with Vitter amendment to ban food stamps for murderers, sex offenders, June 10, 2013


Senator Vitter: Stop Punishing Those Who’ve Done Their Time , June 3, 2013

No food stamps for murderers and sex offenders under new farm bill?, June 3, 2013


Should criminals be denied food stamps? , May 31, 2013  http://theweek.com/article/index/245003/should-criminals-be-denied-food-stamps                                                                                 

The War on Food Stamps, Ex-Felon Edition, May 31, 2013   http://www.brennancenter.org/analysis/war-food-stamps-ex-felon-edition 

'Murderers, rapists, pedophiles' to be banned from food stamps, May 30, 2013

Should Murderers and Rapists Get Food Stamps?, May 29, 2013 http://www.cato.org/blog/should-murderers-rapists-get-food-stamps    

Recent Amendments to the 2013 Farm Bill Should Terrify Consumers, May 28, 2013

David Vitter’s hypocritical, punitive, horrible new amendment, May 24, 2013
Senator's new measure denies food stamps for life to certain classes of ex-convicts (solicitation not included)

Sen. David Vitter's proposed changes to food stamp program would force some felons to go hungry, May 24, 2013