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Bill Expanding Proposition 36 Passes Key Senate Test

Moves to expand a voter-approved California program that sends thousands of drug offenders to treatment instead of prison has passed a critical first test in the state Senate.

The Senate Public Safety Committee approved legislation today to expand treatment times for offenders from 18 months to two years. It would also let judges keep third-time offenders in treatment instead of prison.

The move comes almost five years after 61 percent of California voters opted to follow the lead of Arizona and keep more nonviolent drug offenders out of prison.

The idea has since been adopted by Hawaii, Kansas, Texas and Maryland.

The full Senate and Assembly must approve the bill for it to take affect.