BOSTON (WWLP) - Both branches of the state Legislature approved welfare reform legislation this week, but it's unclear how they will move forward.
House lawmakers approved a mid-year spending bill Wednesday that requires photo identification on EBT cards, increases fines on retailers who sell prohibited items like alcohol to welfare recipients, and puts the state Auditor and Inspector General on a task force to monitor the integrity of the system.
"We're looking at auditing and reviewing the performance in those systems and implementing some more accountability," said Rep. Denise Andrews (D-Orange).
"Many of my constituents are saying it's great that you're doing something, we'll believe it when we see it," said Rep. Don Humason (D-Westfield).
But on Thursday, the state Senate approved a comprehensive welfare reform bill that adds to many of the House provisions. It requires welfare applicants to prove they've been looking for a job before getting benefits and funds job training for the unemployed to put them back to work.
"This is a much more comprehensive approach. The bits and pieces that are in other bills do not form a comprehensive plan," said Sen. Stanley Rosenberg (D-Amherst).
The Senate's welfare bill will go to the House for debate. Eventually both braches will have to decide whether to approve the reforms in the House's supplementary budget or reject them and address welfare reform in the Senate's more comprehensive bill.
"We can agree as part of a conference committee not to do it in the supp and do it in the other venue. It doesn't make any difference how it's done. Important thing is that it gets done," said Rep. John Scibak (D-South Hadley).
Governor Deval Patrick has expressed general support for welfare reform legislation, but has been careful not to comment on specifics.