Newsbrief: Delaware General Assembly Calls for Repeal of Higher Education Act Anti-Drug Provision 7/16/04

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Both houses of the Delaware General Assembly have adopted a nonbinding resolution calling on Congress to repeal the Higher Education Act's (HEA) anti-drug provision. Crafted by Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) in 1998, the provision denies federal student financial aid to students who have a previous drug conviction, no matter how minor. According to the US Department of Education, some 140,000 college students have lost financial aid under the provision.

The resolution had bipartisan sponsorship (four Republicans and three Democrats) in the House, where it passed unanimously on a 40-0 vote with one absence. In the Senate, where the resolution was introduced by three Democrats, it passed by a margin of 17-2. In both chambers, the resolution was supported by leading members.

The resolution notes that drug offenses are the only ones for which students lose financial aid, that it doesn't matter how minor the offense was, and that "this federal provision has had the effect of punishing individuals who have already served criminal sentences, paid their fines and are attempting to become productive citizens and taxpayers by obtaining higher education degrees."

While the resolution has no legal force, it could put pressure on two Delaware politicians targeted by the Coalition for HEA Reform (http://www.raiseyourvoice.com), which seeks to undo the measure. US Sen. Joe Biden (D), is an influential player on crime and drug legislation who has so far supported only a partial reform measure proposed by Rep. Souder that would restrict the law's applicability to people who were in school and receiving federal aid at the time of their drug offenses. US Rep. Mike Castle (R) sits on the House Education and Workforce Committee, which will handle HEA reauthorization.

Now, both Biden and Castle should receive the clear message that the state they represent wants nothing to do with the HEA anti-drug provision except to get rid of it.

To read the resolution and related information, visit http://www.legis.state.de.us then click on Bill Tracking and search on House Concurrent Resolution #78.

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