By Sarah Kallis, GPB News
A proposed new bill aims to give teenagers convicted of nonviolent drug offenses better access to higher education.
House Bill 853, sponsored by state Rep. Eric Bell, would allow students with only nonviolent drug offense convictions to be eligible for the HOPE Scholarship.
Current law prohibits students with any criminal convictions from accessing the scholarship. HB 853 would prevent students from being denied HOPE scholarship from a nonviolent drug offense only. Other types of criminal charges would still bar a student from accessing it.
Bell said that the bill was inspired by people he knew who were not able to access the scholarship.
“I just think we can be more compassionate, especially when we understand that drug addiction is not a criminal act; it’s a health care issue,” he said, adding that many Georgians have been touched by addiction.
“It’s a Georgian bill,” Bell said. “Regardless of if you grew up in the projects or trailer park or if you grew up in a mansion or single-family home with a two-car garage, you know someone affected by it.“
HB 853 will be up for debate during the legislative session, which begins Jan. 8.
This story comes to the Augusta-Richmond Herald through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.