The vote of Senate Health and Welfare Chairman Lee Heider, R-Twin Falls, doomed a bill to allow photos on food stamp cards.
Heider, along with Republican Sen. Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, sided with panel Democrats to defeat the bill. The legislation was sponsored by the Foundation for Government Accountability, a national think tank dedicated to welfare reform.
The bill would have made three significant changes to Idaho law.
First, food stamp recipients would have been able to get their photos put on their benefits card. The federal government bans states from making photos on cards mandatory, but, if a state can do it, the feds allow food stamp recipients to choose to put their photos on the cards.
As part of that provision, the bill would have allowed the Department of Health and Welfare to sign an agreement with the Idaho Transportation Department so DHW could use existing drivers license photos for some cards.
Assuming 100 percent participation, this provision would have cost between $200,000 to $400,000, or $1 to $2 for each of Idaho’s roughly 200,000 active food stamp cards.
Next, the bill would have mandated that DHW crosscheck food stamp rolls with the names of Idaho lottery winners. FGA lobbyist Teresa Molitor said the state already wants to do this, so this provision would keep the process in place in future administrations.
Finally, the bill would have forced DHW to investigate program participants for potential fraud if enrollees ask for too many replacement cards over a set period. For example, if an enrollee requested four or more replacement food stamp cards during a 12-month period, the plan would have forced the beneficiary to discuss the request with a state fraud investigator.
The measure met steep resistance from committee members, who worried about costs and the legality of the plan.
Sen. Pattie Anne Lodge, R-Huston, told Molitor that putting pictures on the cards might be futile because federal law prohibits stores from checking identification of just food stamp users. If grocers want to check identification of food stamp cards, federal regulations say they must do the same for customers who pay using their own debit or credit cards.
“Anyone can still use the card,” Lodge said. “Stores cannot ask for ID from just SNAP users, unless they ask for ID from everyone.”
Boise Democratic Sen. Maryanne Jordan worried about the cost and the potential for little return on investment.
“I find this very troubling and without a lot of data to back it up,” Jordan said.
Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, sided with Jordan, Lodge and Heider to kill the measure.
Republican Sens. Marv Hagedorn of Meridian, Sheryl Nuxoll of Grangeville and Mark Harris of Soda Springs supported the bill.
Boise Republican Sen. Fred Martin initially declined to vote, but later voted against the bill.
As the committee chairman, Heider voted last and could have moved the plan forward. He didn’t explain his opposition to the measure.
Maine passed a nearly identical plan in 2014 over federal objections. More than 36,000 Maine residents have their photos on food stamp cards. That’s more than one-third of the state’s food stamp recipients.
In 2013, more than 226,000 Idaho residents, or about 14.2 of the state’s population, received food stamps. That number has dropped significantly through the past few years. At present, more than 195,000 Idahoans receive food stamps each month, or about 11.9 percent of all state residents.
Here's the full committee audio: