TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) — State officials would have to make electronic state benefits cards unusable at liquor stores, gambling establishments and strip clubs under a bill that passed the House easily on Thursday, but over the objections of Democrats who said it was a political posturing bill that capitalizes on a stereotype about the poor.
Republican backers of the measure, however, said they couldn’t believe anyone would argue against a measure intended to keep taxpayer dollars meant to help families from going for booze, strippers and gambling.
“Our system is broken. People abuse it,” said the sponsor, Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness. “I don’t want you to get a lap dance on my dollar.”
Several Democrats said the idea itself is fine, but noted that the state Department of Children and Families already has the ability under the law to shut off state benefit “EBT cards” from being used at such facilities.
They claimed the bill was aimed at scoring political points among voters who already think people on state assistance are always cheating the government.
Some of them also said the bill also offended them because it assumed that poor people weren’t good enough to make smart decisions about how to spend money.
Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Coral Springs, said the bill should be expanded to prevent everybody who gets state dollars, including legislators who get state money in their paycheck from spending that money on alcohol, gambling or strippers.
The bill (HB 701) passed the House 89-26 and now goes to the Senate.
“The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.”