Bill Tightening Food Stamp Eligibility To Get Second Look from Lawmakers

Aug 31, 2017

A controversial bill to reform food stamp eligibility drew opposition earlier this year, in part, after revelations it was being pushed by an out-of-state think tank on a nationwide campaign to reform welfare systems. It was shelved back in April but, after a Thursday work session, is now poised to get a second look from lawmakers. 

Rep. William Marsh, a Republican from Wolfeboro, said he objects to most of what was in the original bill. But he plans to introduce an amendment to that same piece of legislation, tying child support compliance to food stamp eligibility.

“Most of this bill, I personally would vote against. However, I think this piece does protect children and families,” Marsh said. “I think it deserves a hearing, and I would like it to get that hearing, especially since it has had that hearing in the Senate.”

As written, his amendment would require single parents to seek child support from their child's other parent before getting food stamps. It’s almost identical to a section that appeared in the version of the bill that passed the Senate along party lines earlier this year. 

“Basically, what I did is I cut out all of the bill I didn’t like and left the part that I thought had merit,” he said.

When asked why he’s bringing the issue back up again now, Marsh said it’s because someone asked him to. He just wouldn't say who.

“I don’t believe I’m at liberty to say that at this point in time,” Marsh said, when first asked who made the request.

When asked if it was a lobbyist? “No.”

What about another colleague in the Legislature? “I can tell when I’m trying to be pinned down,” Marsh replied. “I don’t feel like being a butterfly today.”

When asked if it was a constituent, he would say this much: “It would be a constituent who also holds other positions, and therefore, without getting permission from the party involved, I don’t think I should be disclosing things.”

At the Health and Human Services Committee meeting where the issue was discussed  on Thursday, a few Democratic representatives objected to the idea of reviving the bill in any form this year — arguing that supporters could just wait to reintroduce their proposed changes as a new  piece of legislation next session.

But committee chairman Rep. Frank Kotowski, a Republican from Hooksett, said it was worth reviewing the amendment before making a final decision on this year’s version.

“I think we owe it to them to at least look at the idea,” Kotowski said. “If it’s still a bad idea after you hear it, then you vote according to your will.”

From here, Marsh plans to bring the amendment forward for an upcoming subcommittee hearing. The date for that meeting wasn’t immediately pinned down.