N.H. House wants further study on bill limiting EBT card purchases
A ban on using federal benefit cards to buy alcohol and tobacco products in New Hampshire likely won’t become law this year, as the House and Senate are divided on the issue.
House members voted to send their version of the bill to interim study yesterday, while the Senate unanimously passed a similar bill last week. Both bills, although slightly different, would limit what recipients of public assistance can buy using their electronic benefit transfer cards, which work like debit cards. The House bill would have banned only alcohol and tobacco purchases, whereas the Senate bill also banned using the cards for tattoos, gambling, lottery tickets, piercings or at adult entertainment venues.
Neither of the bills specified how the ban would be enforced, which is one reason House members voted in favor of further study.
“There is cohesive understanding that we need to ensure that the benefit is being used for what it’s directed for,” said Rep. Charles McMahon, a Windham Republican. “What we’re not ready to discuss is how you make sure that the person who is provided that benefit is using (it) for the purpose it was provided and directed.”
Both bills were sparked in part by Jackie Whiton, a store clerk from Antrim who was fired in 2012 for refusing to sell someone cigarettes on an EBT card.
“Really? Should taxpayers be supporting someone’s bad habits?” asked Rep. Steve Beaudoin, a Rochester Republican who urged his colleagues to pass the bill.
New federal regulations adopted earlier this year already stop people from using the cards at liquor stores, gambling establishments or adult entertainment venues. These provisions prevent the cards from being used at specific venues, rather than on specific products. At a House hearing in January, opponents of the bill said it would be smart to see how these federal regulations work before adopting new laws regulating use of the cards.
(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @kronayne.)