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Oklahoma lawmaker questions welfare fraud legislation

A legislator called Senate Bill 456 a continuing “war on the poor” being waged by the GOP-controlled Oklahoma Legislature. The House of Representatives Government Modernization committee passed the bill by an 8-1 vote.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT Published: March 29, 2013

Another measure targeting federal assistance programs for low-income and needy Oklahomans advanced Thursday in the Legislature.

“Why are they focusing on the fraud of particular people and having citizens becoming the fraud police?” asked Rep. Richard Morrissette, a member of the House of Representatives Government Modernization committee.

“My friends on the right are hunting down a dead-end road. It's a war on the poor, a systemic, consistent war on the least among us and that's what this Legislature has been doing all session long.”

The committee voted 8-1, with Morrissette opposed, to pass Senate Bill 456, which would authorize the Department of Human Services to post signs explaining how to report people who are using fraudulent means to get welfare payments.

The House passed measures this year creating new requirements for those who receive assistance, such as requiring recipients to work more hours, or prohibiting certain people, such as those convicted of drug crimes or those who have $5,000 or more in assets, from receiving benefits.

“Why don't they go after real money instead of worrying about whether Grandma is getting TANF for her grandbabies?” asked Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City.

He suggested the Republican-controlled Legislature go after overbilling of medical services and inefficient business tax credits.

Rep. Arthur Hulbert, R-Oklahoma City, the House sponsor of the measure, said it would allow people to anonymously report suspected cases of people fraudulently receiving benefits from Medicaid, the low-income health care program, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, often called welfare.

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