Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Action Alert: Restore Financial Aid to Students Convicted of Drug Possession

Over the past year SSDP has scored some huge national victories.  Not least among them helping to convince our long-time opponent Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) to scale back the HEA Aid Elimination Penalty that he created over a decade ago. 

As you probably already know, in September 2009, The House of Representatives passed the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which included language that would repeal the Aid Elimination Penalty for students convicted of drug possession offenses. This was thanks to SSDP members and supporters taking action and sending a strong message to their representatives to vote NO on Souder's amendment.

Since we know that many distribution cases are pleaded down to simple possession, this change will reinstate financial aid to a large number of students who would otherwise be affected by Souder’s amendment. Last week Congress was poised to include the entirety of the SAFRA legislation into the health care reconciliation bill, including our provision. 

Unfortunately, our amendment was not included. According to the rules of the now famous reconciliation process, amendments that affect policy, as ours does, are subject to votes that require a 60 percent majority. So, in the eleventh hour, our amendment was taken out of the bill for procedural reasons. 

The good news is that this turn of events does not represent a lack of political will on the part of our allies in Congress . With leading Democrats devoted to changing this horrible provision — and with your letters and phone calls — we can successfully amend the Aid Elimination Penalty by the end of 2010.

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