- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Assembly passes bill targeting food stamp replacement cards

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The Wisconsin state Assembly has passed a bill bringing greater scrutiny to food stamp recipients who request multiple replacement debit cards.

The bill passed 66-31 Tuesday would allow a FoodShare recipient to receive three replacement debit cards each year no questions asked.

After a fourth request in a year, the person would be notified that they could be investigated for fraud. After a fifth request, the person would be investigated.

The state Department of Health Services in 2013 instituted a pilot policy where it sent letters to FoodShare recipients who asked for four or more cards a year. The department determined the pilot to be successful in reducing the requests for replacements, and plans to implement it statewide in December.

The bill would put the policy into law.

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Assembly passes bill to remove food stamp benefits

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - The state Assembly has passed a bill Republicans say will cut down on fraud in the state’s food stamp program.

The bill approved Tuesday would require the state to seize all FoodShare benefits if the account has not been accessed in six months or more. The recipient could not access the benefits again until they make a request for it to be reactivated or they reapply for the program.

Democratic Rep. Andy Jorgensen says the bill is designed to score political points for Republicans, but isn’t worth the $1.3 million in estimated costs to execute.

Bill sponsor, Republican Rep. Andre Jacque, says the bill will remove a temptation to commit fraud by taking control over large unspent balances.

It passed on a bipartisan 66-31 vote.

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Wisconsin Assembly poised to pass bills targeting fraud

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Republicans argued Tuesday that bills poised to pass the Assembly would help to reduce fraud in Wisconsin’s food stamps and unemployment insurance programs, as Democrats said the GOP is really advancing a political agenda with the poor and jobless suffering as scapegoats.

Three bills slated to pass the Republican-controlled Assembly target participants of Wisconsin’s food stamps program known as FoodShare. A fourth bill would take unemployment benefits away for seven years from those who pretend to be someone else or lie when applying.

Republican backers said at a news conference before debate began that their goal was to ensure that benefits are only going to people who are supposed to get them. But Democrats, at a separate news conference, said the measures will do nothing to prevent fraud, and are instead a distraction from issues people really care about such as creating jobs.

“It’s becoming clear to me Republicans have a favorite new punching bag - the poor and the jobless,” said Democratic Rep. Andy Jorgensen, of Milton. Citing the estimated $9.5 million startup costs of the measures, Jorgensen called the bills “foolish and wasteful.”

“It’s appalling they’d waste that much money to try and label themselves as reformers,” Jorgensen said.

The most expensive bill, at $7.4 million to implement and $2 million each year after that, would require that FoodShare electronic benefit cards include photo identification of every household member who would be using the program.

That would require about 368,000 new cards with photos being sent to more than 823,000 FoodShare clients.

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Senate to take up elections board, campaign changes Friday

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Senate Republicans emerged from a closed-door meeting Tuesday saying they’ll convene later this week to vote on bills that would wipe out Wisconsin’s nonpartisan elections board and overhaul the state’s campaign finance law.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald’s spokeswoman, Myranda Tanck, told reporters in an email the Senate will meet on Friday to take up both proposals. She declined to say what changes to the measures the Senate intends to make, saying those details would be out by Thursday.

Republican senators who had said they wanted changes to the bills did not return messages Tuesday.

The Assembly passed both measures last month, but the bills got bogged down in the Senate, where some more moderate Republican lawmakers sought changes to both proposals.

Fitzgerald twice scrapped floor sessions - once last week and again on Tuesday - to instead hold meetings with his members as he tried to broker an agreement. The Republican senators met privately all Tuesday afternoon before Tanck notified the media of Friday’s session.

The elections board bill as passed by the Assembly would replace the Government Accountability Board, which is headed by six former judges, with two commissions made up of an equal number of Republican and Democratic appointees. One commission would handle elections; the other campaign finance, ethics and lobbying laws.

Some Republican senators have been reluctant to remove judges from the equation. They’ve also expressed reservations about creating two bodies, a move that would take Wisconsin back to a widely criticized model that predated the GAB.

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