Senate bill fills gap in Florida food stamp law

Representing St. Johns County in the Florida Senate, Republican Travis Hutson is pushing a bill which will continue the fight against food stamp fraud and better clarify rules that are already in place.

Hutson says it’s not the people who need the program who are being targeted. Instead it’s those who are abusing the system, by using the benefits of food stamps to trade or buy unapproved items like drugs, alcohol, firearms and ammunition – in what he and the state call “trafficking.”

“The reason we’re doing this is to give the law enforcement from the State Attorney’s Office a little better leg to stand on when they go to court to say ‘they are trafficking because it’s defined here and they are committing fraud’,” Hutson said.

Already, there are penalties associated with misusing food stamps but Hutson’s plan, as he explains it, is specifically dealing with the word “trafficking” in state law which he claims is loosely defined.

Hutson’s bill explicitly states that if someone is in possession of two or more cards that were issued to another person and goes to sell them that becomes a third-degree felony charge.

In 2013, Rep. Jimmie Smith filed and had his bill approved which targeted misusing the cards at certain businesses – specifically strip clubs, liquor stores and gambling establishments.

Smith, who authored much SB 218, approached Hutson because of an issue with his previous bill. Smith didn’t take in to account the large amount of people making these exchanges on the black market in their own homes.

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