Governor Rick Scott has signed Senate Bill 186 and it will become effective July 1, 2015. Labeled as “The Growler Bill,” Senate Bill 186 is broken down into eleven sections. The first section pertains to welfare recipients and Electronic Benefits Transfer cards.
Section 1 of SB 186 amends Florida Statute § 402.82 and prohibits the purchase or sale of any alcoholic beverage with an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card. EBT’s are essentially debit cards for welfare recipients. Therefore, recipients will not be able to purchase, and licensed vendors will not be able to sell, alcoholic beverages via EBT cards. Supporters argue that welfare dollar should be spent on necessities and alcoholic beverages are not necessities. Opponents argue this is a further restriction by the government, and wonder what will be next.
Section 1 is consistent with Rick Scott’s trend towards restricting purchasing options for welfare recipients. In 2013, Scott implemented a law prohibiting the use of EBT cards in casinos and gentlemen’s clubs. In December of 2014, a federal court of appeal in Atlanta rejected Scott’s proposal to drug test all welfare recipients in Lebron v. Florida Department of Children and Families. In his decision, Judge Stanley Marcus cited privacy and the Fourth Amendment’s protection from unreasonable searches and seizures explaining: “We have no reason to think impoverished individuals are necessarily and inherently prone to drug use. Citizens do not abandon all hope of privacy by applying for government assistance.”
While Scott has been unable to circumvent the judicial system with Executive Orders drug testing welfare recipients, the Florida legislature is further restricting the use of welfare funds.