Kansas to ban use of welfare on tattoos, cruises, psychics

Washington (CNN)Kansas is poised to put a stop to the practice of welfare recipients using government aid to pay for psychics with a bill that cracks down on the use of welfare for fun.

It aims to encourage those receiving government aid under the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to spend "more responsibly," as Kansas state Sen. Michael O'Donnell told the Topeka Capital-Journal.
"We're trying to make sure those benefits are used the way they were intended," O'Donnell, vice chair of the state senate's standing committee on public health and welfare, said. "This is about prosperity. This is about having a great life."
Having a great life, per the bill, means that welfare recipients cannot spend their government aid on body piercings, massages, spas, tobacco, nail salons, lingerie, arcades, cruise ships or visits to psychics.
The bill also forbids spending the funds at theme parks, dog or horse racing tracks, a "sexually oriented business or any retail establishment which provides adult-oriented entertainment in which performers disrobe or perform in an unclothed state for entertainment, or in any business or retail establishment where minors under age 18 are not permitted."
And it limits cash withdrawals of the funds to $25 a day, an attempt to prevent recipients from using their funds on inappropriate expenditures.
It passed last week with large support from Republican majorities in the House and Senate, and Gov. Sam Brownback is expected to sign it, though his spokeswoman has said he'll consider it carefully. Republicans in the state legislature didn't outline how significant the welfare fraud problem was in the state, and the number of welfare recipients actually declined by half in three years, from 17,600 in 2011 to 8,900 in 2014, according to the Capital-Journal.
Republicans have hailed that decline as evidence that the Brownback administration's strict work requirements and welfare restrictions are working.
Democrats say the bill is unnecessarily discriminatory and, intentionally or not, will have the effect of exacerbating stigmas against the needy.
"I just think we are simply saying to people, 'If you are asking for assistance in this state, you're sort of less than other people and we're going to tell you how and where to spend your money,'" said state Rep. Carolyn Bridges during the House debate on the bill, according to the Associated Press.
But Kansas isn't the only state where GOP-led state legislatures are moving to implement restrictions and reforms on government aid for the needy. A Missouri Republican state lawmaker introduced a bill this week that would prevent food stamp recipients from using their aid to buy soft drinks, chips, cookies, seafood and steaks with their funds, and Maine Gov. Paul LePage unveiled a plan that would implement many of the same reforms as the Kansas bill on Monday.