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House looks to toughen public assistance requirements

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House panel Tuesday approved a bill that would increase penalties for public-assistance recipients who do not meet work requirements -- and also would bar electronic-benefit transfer cards from being used at medical-marijuana businesses, tobacco shops and tattoo establishments.

The House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee approved the bill (HB 23), filed by Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.

The increased penalties for failure to meet work requirements would apply to people who receive aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program.

Eagle said his goal is to curb fraud and abuse and to help people get employment.

"We're trying to help people," Eagle said. "We're not trying to punish people." 

But Rep. Daisy Baez, D-Coral Gables, expressed concern about lawmakers taking a "punitive approach."