BATON ROUGE (AP) — Welfare recipients would be unable to withdraw their assistance as cash or spend it on liquor and cigarettes, under a House-approved proposal supported Wednesday by the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
The state social services department would have to enact the measure by February 2013, if lawmakers pass the bill (House Bill 95) by Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie.
The proposal would prohibit the spending of welfare money, in a program called the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program, on alcohol, tobacco products, gambling or sexually-oriented businesses like strip clubs.
The FITAP money is allocated on an electronic benefits card issued to welfare recipients, which functions like a debit card. Henry's proposal would eliminate the ability to withdraw the money as cash for spending.
The Senate panel voted 3-1 to advance the proposal to the full Senate for debate.
Retailers who violate the prohibition would be disqualified from accepting the electronic benefits card for up to six months.
The Legislative Fiscal Office said the bill
would require the social services department to rework its existing
software system at an estimated $454,000 cost in the first year
and $228,000 annual cost each year after that. No money has
been earmarked for the expenses.
A bid to ask voters in each parish if they want to enact term limits on their local school boards is headed to the full Senate for debate.
The term limit question would appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. If approved in a parish, local school board members there would be limited to three consecutive four-year terms, like state lawmakers.
Supporters — including representatives of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and the Council for A Better Louisiana — said term limits would allow for fresh ideas and new people on the boards that determine education policy for thousands of public school students.
Opponents said voters already can oust elected officials they don't think are performing well, by refusing to re-elect them. They also said term limits rid elected bodies of people with years of knowledge and expertise.
The House-approved proposal (House Bill 292) by Rep. Steve Pugh, R-Ponchatoula, escaped the Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee with a 4-3 vote Wednesday. If approved by the Senate without changes, it would head to the governor's desk.
Currently, Jefferson and Lafayette parishes have term limits on their school board members.
A call on Congress to stop funding Planned Parenthood is one step from final legislative passage, after narrowly receiving the backing of the Senate Health and Welfare Committee.
Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, said he sponsored the proposal (House Concurrent Resolution 11) because he wants Planned Parenthood to stop receiving tax dollars until they stop providing abortions, even though tax money isn't used for the procedure.
"Planned Parenthood leads the nation in abortions," Hoffmann said Wednesday. "This is a pro-life resolution."
Planned Parenthood is prohibited from using federal funding to provide abortions. In Louisiana, Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions.
Opponents of the legislation, which already has House support, said removal of federal funding for the organization would threaten health care for millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV testing and preventive health care.
The committee voted 3-2 to send the measure to the full Senate for debate.
Limits would be set on the number of credit hours it takes most Louisiana public college students to get a degree, under a bill nearing final legislative passage.
Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, said the proposal (Senate Bill 103) would make it more likely for students to get out of college in four years. The Senate-approved measure would cap the requirement at 120 hours of credit. It includes an exception for those degrees that require more course hours under certification rules, like engineering programs.
The House Education Committee advanced the bill to the full House for debate without objection.