NASHVILLE - State senators on Thursday voted overwhelmingly to bar automatic teller machines (ATMs) located near businesses providing bail bonds, tattoos and body piercing from dispensing cash to people with welfare benefit cards.
The Senate approved the bill, sponsored by Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, 23-5. It now goes to the House.
Campfield said the bill will help deter welfare recipients' ability to use "electronic benefit transfer" or EBT cards at the ATMs to withdraw cash, and in his view using the money inappropriately.
Businesses violating the would-be law would be subject to fines starting at $1,000 for a first offense.
Sen. Douglas Henry, D-Nashville, questioned why bail bondsmen were included in the legislation and fretted detainees would linger in jail.
Replied Campfield: "He [suspect] should have thought about that before they did whatever crime they did."
Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, said the result of barring use of EBT cards to make bail could drive up local taxpayers' jail costs for continued incarceration.
Last year, lawmakers passed a similar bill by Sen. Jim Tracy, R-Shelbyville, that affected ATMs at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.
Meanwhile, senators also gave final approval to a bill requiring fellow Republican Gov. Bill Haslam to run any Medicaid-expansion agreement he strikes, if any, with the Obama administration by the Tennessee Legislature.
The original bill, sponsored by Sen. Brian Kelsey, R-Germantown, barred Tennessee from expanding Medicaid, known here as TennCare, under what he called an "Obamacare Medicaid expansion."
But after legislative estimates put the cost to Tennessee in forgone federal revenue in the billions, Kelsey's bill was watered down with Haslam's agreement. So as amended, it makes Haslam seek approval from lawmakers, which Haslam has said all along he planned to do anyway.
If no Medicaid proposal emerges in Tennessee, the bill will be meaningless.
This week is the anniversary of Haslam first announcing he'd try to negotiate a "third way" to fund coverage for thousands of uninsured Tennesseans.
That still seems to be going nowhere nearly four months after the Jan. 1 expansion took place in a number of states like Kentucky.
The GOP-run Senate approved the Kelsey measure, which was amended by the House, on a 23-6 vote. The GOP-controlled House dropped a Senate provision pushed by Minority Leader Jim Kyle, D-Memphis, that would have prohibited lawmakers from collecting their customary pay and per diem expenses if called into special session to act by Haslam.
Kelsey argued the provision violates the Tennessee Constitution's provisions that lawmakers can't alter their pay until a next General Assembly takes office after an election.
But Kyle disagreed, pointing out that if the special session occurs after the November election, which appears likely, a new General Assembly would immediately be in office and thus his proposal would be constitutional.
He warned Republicans that their constituents "would see" they were getting paid in a special session even as they moved to block the expansion on Medicaid in Tennessee to 180,000 people in a special session.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550.