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Lawmakers have halted the progress of a bill that would allow mothers who get pregnant while enrolled in CalWORKS to claim benefits for the child.

There were few casualties as the Senate Appropriations Committee weighed a final slate of Assembly bills on Friday, with several contentious or heavily lobbied Democratic measures advancing to the Senate floor. But lawmakers blocked Assembly Bill 271, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles.

Committee chair Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, cited the cost in holding the bill but still paused from a rapid-fire hearing to voice his "unequivocal" support for the measure and decry the current so-called "family cap" policy, which bars women who become pregnant while on welfare from drawing more money.

In an interview, Mitchell compared a late-session push to expand California's prison capacity to her bill's failure, suggesting that a ragged social safety net contributes to prison overcrowding by pushing impoverished Californians towards crime.

"Deep poverty has a direct correlation to criminal activity," Mitchell said, "and children born into these families, whose household incomes and payments from CalWORKS are not adjusted, leads them into deep poverty."

Bills that survived and will next face floor votes included legislation to raise the state's minimum wage, to offer drivers licenses to undocumented immigrants, to prohibit lead ammunition, to allow medical translators to acquire union representation and collectively bargain, and to provide labor protections to domestic workers.

PHOTO: Assemblywoman Holly J. Mitchell, D-Los Angeles during session in the Assembly chambers in Sacramento, Calif. on Monday, March 11, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua.



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