AUGUSTA — The LePage administration says it understands the intent behind bills to bolster residency requirements for welfare programs, but the proposals violate federal regulations.

The bills reviewed by the Health and Human Services Committee today also generated opposition from the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which called them unconstitutional, and religious organizations, which said they could push the poor into a deeper spiral of poverty.

The bills surfaced as welfare reform looms as a big issue this session and amid anecdotal reports of people migrating to Maine to enroll in welfare. Rep. Richard Cebra says Maine has one of the most lenient welfare systems in the country, attracting illegal immigrants who qualify for welfare benefits.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted at least two cases in recent years in which people with no ties to Maine were transporting illegal aliens to the state to get drivers’ licenses, which open doors to government services.

3:18 p.m.

AUGUSTA — A legislative committee is taking up bills requiring applicants for state assistance to be legal residents of the United States and Maine for at least 90 days.

The Health and Human Services Committee took up the legislation today.

Naples Republican Rep. Richard Cebra’s bill (LD 193) says an applicant for state assistance under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the MaineCare program or the food stamp program must be a legal resident of the United States and a resident of Maine.

A separate bill (LD 1294) imposes a 90-day residency requirement in order to receive MaineCare, the statewide food supplement program, TANF and municipal general assistance.

The Roman Catholic Diocese and Maine Council of Churches are among the bills’ opponents, saying they’ll drive poor families deeper into poverty.