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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

 2:32 PM 

Assembly debates FoodShare trafficking penalties

The Assembly is debating a bill that makes trafficking of FoodShare benefits a specific offense under state law.

The bill, authored by Rep. Samantha Kerkman, R-Powers Lake, would add trafficking to the list of offenses relating to improper use of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. That would include anyone who buys or sells SNAP benefits for money, guns or ammunition, or anyone who resells food purchased with SNAP benefits.

Democrats assailed the bill during debate as unnecessary, saying that the fiscal note from District Attorneys showed no additional costs as a result of the bill and that DAs can already prosecute the crime. Other Democrats called the bill "mean-spirited" when considering those facts.

"There is nobody here who supports FoodShare fraud, but when is the discussion going to arise to get people back to work and lift them out of poverty," Rep. Corey Mason.

Kerkman said that she received support on the bill from Waukesha DA Brad Schimel and argued that audits and reports from local newspapers showed that this sort of fraud needed to be addressed. Kerkman also said during an earlier press conference that the bill simply codifies a set of recently passed federal rules so that they can be enforced by DAs.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, argued that "we don't go after fraud like we should" especially in Milwaukee County.

"What we are suggesting is simply follow federal law and give prosecutors more tools to go after fraud," Vos said. "If you don't want to give them more tools, feel free to go back to your districts and tell them why FoodShare fraud is OK."

The body voted down one amendment that would have added $25,000 for DAs to prosecute the offenses. Democrats argued the amount was needed if already strained DAs across Wisconsin were going to be able to prosecute the offenses. JFC Co-Chair and Rep. John Nygren, R-Marinette, said that the Assembly was already addressing the pay issues of the DAs in the next budget and would address the understaffing issues in the future.

The Assembly also passed a bill on CPA examination requirements on a quick voice vote.


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