Bentley's bill restricting use of food stamps passes House | Arkansas Blog

Monday, January 30, 2017

Bentley's bill restricting use of food stamps passes House

Posted By on Mon, Jan 30, 2017 at 7:07 PM

BENTLEY: (Don't) let them eat cake.
  • BENTLEY: (Don't) let them eat cake.
Rep. Mary Bentley's bill to limit the use of food stamps, which she says is aimed at combating rising obesity and discouraging food stamp fraud, today passed the House 55-39.

The bill would would mandate that the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) "shall only allow benefits to be used only for foods, food products, and beverages that have sufficient nutritional value."

The state's Department of Health would be charged with determining what products qualify as having sufficient nutritional value based upon the standards for another food aid program, the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC). WIC, for pregnant women and women with young children, has strict nutritional requirements and can only be used for certain items, such as milk, eggs, tofu, breakfast cereal, beans, whole grain items, infant formula and baby food, and fruits and vegetables.

A number of lawmakers have expressed concerns about the potentially vague definition of "sufficient nutritional value" and the regulatory burden imposed in enforcing this list on retailers (grocery stores and other retailers oppose Bentley's bill).

SNAP can be currently be used to buy any food item, with exceptions for alcohol and hot food or food that would be eaten in-store.

The state would have to acquire a waiver from the federal government in order to enact the strict limitations it envisions. Republicans in the West Virginia legislature unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar bill last year.

Rep. Vivian Flowers asked Bentley about whether people on food stamps would have access to healthy food given the food deserts that exist in the state.

Bentley did not answer the question. She said that she wished that convenience stores where food stamps are used would provide healthy food. She expressed the hope that Dollar General stores and the like would respond to her bill by starting to do so. Indeed, she offered the fantastical vision that her bill would miraculously solve the problem of food deserts altogether. Well. The zeal for imposing bureaucratic hurdles upon the poor can cloud even the soundest of minds, it seems.

As I've mentioned before, the USDA is beginning to try to address structural problems and explore innovative solutions to increase access to healthy food to people living in food deserts, defined by the USDA "parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas...due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers." But Bentley's bill does nothing to address the access problem, instead opting to impose additional rules, hurdles, and hassles on poor people.

Republican Rep. Jana Della Rosa, speaking against the bill, said the bill would impose burdensome regulations on businesses and said that it was too vague about what counted as allowable "nutritional" food. She asked whether bacon would make the cut. I think I heard some gasps from the chamber. "We're leaving it to a bureaucracy to decide and it's written so broadly that they can pretty much put anything on the list or take anything off that they want to," she said.

Republican Rep. Laurie Rushing, a former food stamp recipient, spoke emotionally about the value of the food stamp program and the potential problems this bill would impose on the poor. Democrats Rep. Michael John Gray and Greg Leding also spoke against the bill (Leding, keeping with the theme of the day, noted that an estimated 19,000 veterans in Arkansas are on food stamps).

Speaking for the bill, Rep. Trevor Down noted that the N in SNAP stands for "Nutrition."

All House Democrats save one voted against the bill, as well as 15 Republicans, but it wasn't enough. The bill is on to the senate.

From the ArkTimes store


Comments (15)

Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-15 of 15

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Abuse again at Arkansas juvenile lockup

    A guard was fired after choking a child at the Alexander Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center. It’s the latest in a long history of mistreatment at the facility.
    • May 26, 2017
  • Health care policy FAQ

    What proposed state and federal changes mean for the future of health care policy in Arkansas.
    • May 25, 2017
  • The health of a hospital

    The Medicaid expansion helped Baxter County Regional Medical Center survive and thrive, but a federal repeal bill threatens to imperil it and its patients.
    • May 25, 2017
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Federal judge wants John Goodson to explain class action maneuvering

    A show-cause order filed Monday by federal Judge P.K. Holmes of Fort Smith indicates class action attorney John Goodson has some explaining to do about the move of a class action complaint against an insurance company from federal to state court with an instant pre-packaged settlement that has been criticized as a windfall for Goodson.
    • Dec 22, 2015
  • Arkansas Times Recommends: A Literary Edition

    Arkansas Times Recommends is a series in which Times staff members (or whoever happens to be around at the time) highlight things we've been enjoying this week.
    • Jul 1, 2016
  • Super Bowl line

    Over to you.
    • Feb 7, 2016

Most Shared

  • So much for a school settlement in Pulaski County

    The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Cynthia Howell got the scoop on what appears to be coming upheaval in the Pulaski County School District along with the likely end of any chance of a speedy resolution of school desegregation issues in Pulaski County.
  • Riverfest calls it quits

    The board of directors of Riverfest, Arkansas's largest and longest running music festival, announced today that the festival will no longer be held. Riverfest celebrated its 40th anniversary in June. A press release blamed competition from other festivals and the rising cost of performers fees for the decision.
  • Football for UA Little Rock

    Andrew Rogerson, the new chancellor at UA Little Rock, has decided to study the cost of starting a major college football team on campus (plus a marching band). Technically, it would be a revival of football, dropped more than 60 years ago when the school was a junior college.
  • Turn to baseball

    When the world threatens to get you down, there is always baseball — an absorbing refuge, an alternate reality entirely unto itself.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation