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Legislature to Fight Patrick's Veto of Welfare Restrictions

The House is expected to decide today whether to accept the governor's changes to an amendment that restricts how welfare money can be used.

The House today is expected to take up an amendment regarding the use of welfare money in response to Gov. Deval Patrick's veto on a law that restricts use of electronic-benefit cards. 

As part of the 2013 state buget, the Legislature included language that would have banned EBT card use to buy jewelry, manicures, tattoos, guns, pornography and other items. It is already illegal to use such cards to buy tobacco, alcohol and lottery tickets. 

But last week, Patrick rejected these new restrictions and substituted language that forbids EBT card use at certain businesses, such as tattoo parlors, strip clubs, gun shops and casinos – but not on the individual items themselves. However, he declined to include jewelry stores and nail salons on this list. 

Patrick said he vetoed the Legislature's language because of problems with enforceablity. Furthermore, he said, his proposal is in line with reforms recommended by the EBT Commission. 

Still, several legislators say they are disappointed with Patrick's veto and plan to reject it. If they are successful, Patrick could either sign or veto the original language. If he issues another veto, the Legislature has until July 31 to try to override it. 

"The expectation of government is to attempt to maximize transparency and efficiency” said State Rep. Paul McMurtry (D-Dedham). "My vote to override Governor Patrick’s veto applies the same principles to the recipients of government assistance. A more efficient system will increase the ability and opportunity to help additional families in need, while simultaneously restoring the taxpayers trust in the EBT system."

Welfare recipients now receive, on average, $500 a month in assistance, according to the Department of Transitional Assistance.  And nearly 52,000 households in Massachusetts are enrolled in the program, according to the Boston Globe

“What we did in EBT reform was the responsible thing to do. I think that any time that you’re talking about fraud of this type, I think what we did as a House, as a Senate, and then in the conference committee was the right thing to do. We are talking here about saving taxpayers money from fraud," House Speaker Robert DeLeo said.

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