As the state legislative session hurtles toward it close, bills aplenty are passing through the legislature (although many others don’t seem like they’re going to make it). The Albany Times-Union’s always-handy Capitol Confidential blog is updating frequently.
Brian Mann also reports that state Sen. Betty Little has been busy pushing through several Adirondack North Country-related bills: on land swaps in the Adirondack Park; and banning the importation of Eurasian swine. Little’s also still working on a bill that would allow Lake Placid’s emergency room to stay open part time.
On a more potentially salacious note, the Senate has voted to pass a bill (S966, for those who are interested) that would prevent people from using EBT cards containing cash assistance money (from SNAP — food stamps — or some other programs) at ATMs in liquor stores, gambling halls, or adult entertainment venues. Apparently this happens to the tune of at least tens of thousands of dollars a year in New York state.
The senate voted 52-10 in favor of the bill. North Country Now reports all three of St. Lawrence County’s state Senators voted yes on the measure (the complete list of who voted how is in the link for S966).
As a person who interestedly checks her grocery receipts to see how much of what she bought would theoretically be eligible for SNAP, I was surprised to see in a press release from Sen. Patty Ritchie, who co-sponsored the bill, that there’s currently no law against this. Here’s the language from the Senate bill itself:
EXISTING LAW: No law exists protecting public assistance cash benefits from being either used to purchase alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets, or withdrawn or used in any liquor store, casino or establishment providing adult-oriented entertainment.
Who knew? Anyway, Here’s what Sen. Ritchie had to say about the bill:
EBT cards are intended to help people who have fallen on hard times afford the necessities. But, when these cards are used to purchase things like smokes, booze or lottery tickets, it’s a major waste of taxpayer money…This measure would help stop welfare fraud and ensure these benefits are being used the way they are intended.
Those who violate the law would lose cash benefits for a month on the first offense, three months on the second, and permanently on the third. The bill also establishes a fund to contain “monies” gathered from fines and fees associated with the new law. As of Thursday afternoon, the bill is in the Assembly.
On a legislatively related note, the Farm Bill has failed the House of Representatives. David Sommerstein is reporting on this development on The Dirt.