Legislation which provides penalties for trafficking in Wisconsin food stamp benefits has passed the state Assembly on a bipartisan vote. The bill drew criticism from some Democrats, who characterize it as unnecessary and even mean-spirited. “The one thing we shouldn’t be here to do, is to penalize the individuals that are less fortunate, that utilize these programs. Because nothing sucks worse than to be poor in Wisconsin,” said Milwaukee Representative LaTonya Johnson. “This action is currently illegal,” said Sun Prairie Representative Gary Hebl. “We have all the statutes we need to make fraud, trafficking of food stamps, illegal.”
The bill, which now heads to the state Senate, will enable prosecution of those who traffic in SNAP benefits, as they’re now known. That includes buying, selling or stealing benefits or exchanging them for cash or drugs.
“I think we all want the same thing. We want the dollars to go to the truly needy,” said GOP Representative John Nygren of Marinette. “But not in exchange for rampant fraud.”
“We have a bill to codify (state law) with the federal government,” said the measure’s author, Kenosha area Representative Samantha Kerkman. “President Obama and his administration have been working on for a few years. Now we’re codifying it into state statutes,” to give local prosecutors the opportunity to prosecute, she said. The measure passed 73-24.