21 May 2012

Committee action, May 21: HB 9, HB 10, HB 95, HB 1043

HB 9 and HB 10 by Rep. Tony Ligi would trigger pension forfeitures of state contributions for those who commit serious financial crimes or sexual crimes against minors in government service, for those employed/elected to office at the beginning of next year, and not to beneficiaries or dependents.

Sen. Gerald Long of the Senate Retirement Committee asked how this differed from current law and how it would not hurt beneficiaries or dependents. Ligi said the bill would allow judicial discretion to innocent beneficiaries and dependents. He said this bill strengthened garnishment, beyond fine collection or restitution. Long also wondered whether this was an urgent issue; Ligi cited a couple of recent cases where this would have applied.

Sen. Barrow Peacock wondered how pardoning would work. Ligi said it would have no effect. Supporters argued this bill would provide deterrence and so in essence it may never have to be used. Long asked how this stacked up against federal law; Ligi said there was a feature for forfeiture.

HB 10 was approved without objection. HB 9, the constitutional amendment, then was treated similarly.

HB 95 by Rep. Cameron Henry would make state law congruent with coming federal law that would prevent federal cash welfare assistance from being drawn at ATMs, utilized for the purchase of alcohol or tobacco, and remitted at gaming establishments and sexually oriented businesses. This would cost the state roughly $450,000 to refund retailers to program making the switch, although he hoped federal government grants might deal with that and with enforcement. It does go beyond the federal law in the ATM portion, but still would allow withdrawals at a bank.

Henry asked to amend the bill to push make the implementation date eight months to 10/1/13 in order to accommodate regulators and retailers. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Jack Donahue offered it and it was adopted without objection.

Sen. Fred Mills argued the statistics showed this hardly was an issue. Henry said, even without a federal mandate, the fact was the program had a certain intent and this law helped to safeguard that the intent of using the money for basic needs was being met, even if the state had to cough up the money to do it.

Sen. Greg Tarver wanted to know how they would find the money to do it. Henry said efficiencies in the block grant funding FITAP received would have to do. Tarver asked how prevalent this was and whether it was happening; Henry said he has a CD full of questionable transactions to prove that.

Sen. Ronnie Johns wondered how the ability to buy money orders from the cards, then cash them, would be addressed by this. Henry said it couldn’t be stopped, but as many restrictions as possible would help discourage the practice.

Tarver then asked whether the committee ought to sit on the bill, given the fiscal note, pending what happened to the general appropriations bill HB 1. Henry found this agreeable, as did the committee.

HB 1043 would permit donations to the New Opportunities Waiver fund. Author Rep. Henry Burns felt an alternative to the spotty funding for these could be supplemented by benevolent gifts.

It was reported without objection.

How did I vote on the amendment I put forward? I voted for it.
That’s good; some people don’t.
Henry, with Tarver’s response, regarding HB 1.

No comments: