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Bittersweet cupcake amendment fails to move GOP lawmakers

Monday, January 30th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The state’s neediest families shouldn’t be able to use emergency cash assistance to buy booze, watch strip shows or gamble, most GOP lawmakers agree.

But they’re divided over whether Floridians should be allowed to use food stamps to buy cupcakes, Cokes or candy.

A measure that would impose those prohibitions passed a House committee this afternoon but not before some Republicans on the panel told the bill (HB 1401) sponsor they’d kill the bill if he didn’t trim out the food stamp restrictions, also opposed by retailers, soda companies and convenience store owners.

Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, said he got the message and would consider modifying the measure to get limits on where individuals getting Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) can use their state-issued debit cards.

Rep. Mark Pafford tried to sweeten the bill with a “cupcake amendment” that would have allowed food stamp users to purchase cakes or cupcakes for birthdays.

“It’s just an exception for a child to celebrate a birthday by having a cake or a cupcake,” Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, explained.

But Plakon wouldn’t swallow.

He said that a birthday cake can cost up to $40 while a cake mix costs just $4. Pafford’s amendment failed.

Rep. Dana Young was on the 8-6 winning side in favor of the bill, but let Plakon know it was the end of the line if he doesn’t make the changes.

“I’m all about good nutrition,” Young, R-Tampa, said. “But I don’t want people to tell me what to eat. And I just don’t think it’s right for us as legislators and as a government to tell anyone what they can eat, even if they happen to be poor. Even if they happen to be on food stamps.”

Chances are it won’t matter whether the lawmakers approve the ban on junk food or not.

The feds would have to sign off on a waiver to impose the restrictions. Several states have applied for the waiver but the U.S. Department of Agriculture has denied them all.

‘Johnny’ and ‘Twiggy’ make the pitch to end greyhound racing

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012 by Dara Kam

"Johnny"

A pair of greyhounds did the marketing this morning for activists in the Capitol pushing an animal-friendly agenda.

Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, and Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, had “Johnny” and “Twiggy” on hand at a press conference for their proposal to allow dog tracks to keep their card rooms and other gambling activities but put an end to greyhound racing.

Sachs, whose district is home to the Palm Beach Kennel Club, said the state needs to quit subsidizing the dying industry and allow the pari-mutuels to stop the dog races that have become just an excuse to offer more lucrative poker games.

And, the bipartisan pair said, their “decoupling” bills (SB 382, HB 641) will put an end to the inhumane treatment of some greyhounds at smaller tracks. The pari-mutuel industry also supports the measures.

“It’s just not where we’re at as a people anymore,” Sachs said.

A similar proposal died on the last day of last year’s session over a dispute about tax breaks for the dog tracks, including PBKC.

The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and GREY2K USA are also backing a measure (SB 488, HB 527) that would allow counties to charge an extra $10 for animal cruelty fines and let the money be spent on spay and neuter programs.

The animal rights groups are opposing a proposal (SB 1184, HB 1021) dubbed the “ag gag” bill that would make it a crime to take pictures or video of agricultural property.

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