JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (CN) - Missouri lawmakers are considering a bill that would prohibit welfare recipients from using their benefits at liquor stores, casinos, strip clubs and sporting events.
The measure has been discussed in the Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee with no opposition, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
It came in response to a KMOV-TV investigation that revealed that thousands of dollars were being withdrawn at or near such places by welfare recipients using electronic benefits cards at ATMs.
The bill has bipartisan support and is sponsored by Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal, D-University City, and Sen. Will Kraus, R-Lee's Summit.
The two lawmakers, who rarely see eye to eye, say the bill is a compromise that will curb fraud in Missouri welfare programs.
"These cards have been used in Las Vegas and on islands off the mainland," Chappelle-Nadal told the Post-Dispatch. "These funds are for those people who are in need - the most vulnerable. If it's one or two people (committing fraud), that's too many."
The bill also would bar businesses from accepting payment of welfare benefits for alcohol, tobacco or lottery tickets. The initial penalty would be a misdemeanor, but repeat offenders could be charged with a felony.