State Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood (Pic by Meredith Geddings, via myfloridahouse.gov)

The Florida House today passed two bills that would restrict welfare – one, which would restrict access to cash assistance or food stamps for anyone with a past drug felony conviction, and another that would add restrictions to how welfare beneficiaries can use public cash assistance and food stamps.

Both bills were deemed “mean-spirited” by Democratic members of the House who have criticized the GOP-led Legislature for continuously making access to welfare more difficult and attempting to crack down on the benefits for those recipients.

One bill, which was introduced by state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, would ban welfare beneficiaries from using the money for gambling, strip clubs, tobacco or alcohol. The other, which is sponsored by state Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Lecanto, would require anyone with a drug felony conviction to complete drug or alcohol addiction counseling, and show that they have completed a program, before they can receive benefits.

Smith has said that his measure is intended to force “societal change” and alter the public’s “attitude towards drugs.”

State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, has criticized the bill, arguing that it is “antagonistic” and would place a “hardship on poor families.”

Smith’s bill passed in an 80-31 vote and Plakon’s bill passed in a 92-23 vote.

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