If there is one policy out of Washington from the last decade that gathers applause from across the political spectrum, it's the welfare reform policies of the 1990s. In the spirit of continuing to build on those successes, I recently offered two different provisions to continue these valuable welfare reforms.
I offered an amendment to promote more community investment by individuals who receive public housing assistance. The provision would require an able-bodied, non-working individual who receives housing assistance to participate in eight hours of community service a month. And it was no surprise that the majority of my Senate colleagues supported the measure as that community service provision was already in part of the current law since 1998 -- that is until members of the U.S. House of Representatives stripped the requirement this year.
My other provision was designed to help tackle the terribly high drug and gang-related crime in New Orleans by prohibiting federal housing assistance from going to households that include convicted drug dealers and individuals convicted of gang violence.
New Orleans has been plagued with some of the highest drug and gang-related crimes in the nation. And as we continue to rebuild in the wake of the storms, we have an opportunity to rebuild a public housing system that breaks from the old, concentrated centers of drug-related and violent crime that they were in the past. Many gangs and drug organizations are run from public housing facilities, and the federal government should not turn a blind eye and continue funding the bases for such criminal activity.
Arguably the most important aspect of my amendment was that it continued the policy already on the books that gives the housing authority the flexibility to negotiate a way for family members and relatives to continue receiving assistance if the individual that is involved in drug-related crimes vacates the family home. My amendment simply would have expanded on current law to include gang-related crimes in addition to drug-related crimes.
Unfortunately, that provision did not receive the majority of the Senate's vote. That's disappointing because the murder rate in New Orleans was the highest in the nation in 2008. But I will continue to look for future opportunities to promote common-sense, effective crime-fighting policies like these and to continue reforming welfare.
Please let me know about issues of importance to you and your families by contacting me at any of my stated offices or in my Washington, DC office by mail at U.S. Senator David Vitter, U.S. Senate, 516 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, 20510, or by phone at 202.224.4623. You can also reach me by e-mail on the web at http://vitter.senate.gov by clicking "Contact" and "Email Senator Vitter".