House Republicans have crafted a “government efficiency” package that includes a ban on using food stamps to buy junk food.
Craig Schoenfeld, a lobbyist for Hy-Vee, suggests that would turn grocers into the food police. “Watching things go through and dictating consumer choice,” Schoenfeld says.
Lana Ross represents the statewide network of Community Action Agencies and she says while they encourage folks to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, those are often the most expensive items per serving in the store.
“When it comes down to dollars and cents, it’s going to cost more for them to purchase healthier foods,” Ross says.
Representative Peter Cownie, a Republican from West Des Moines who is the bill’s manager, admits there are some controversial items in the bill that may be removed, including the ban on using food stamps to buy junk food.
“This is my fourth year down here,” Cownie says. “I have learned that it’s always easier to say no than yes.”
Another proposal in the government efficiency bill would reduce pensions for legislators themselves. Legislators currently get to count their daily expense money as income when they calculate the pensions they’ll get from the Iowa Public Employees Retirement System or IPERS. Cownie says people in the private sector don’t get to count reimbursement for travel, food and other business expenses as income.
“It just doesn’t really pass the sniff test to go to IPERS for a legislator,” Cownie says.
Another section of the bill calls on state officials to sell off state-owned land in order to raise money for environmental initiatives. Mike Heller of the Iowa Conservation Alliance objects to the idea.
“There isn’t enough public land right now and selling it would be counter-productive,” Heller says.
Ironically, some of the money generated by selling state-owned land would be used for programs that see the state buy private land for conservation.
Other parts of the government-efficiency bill call upon state workers to make it a practice to print on both sides of a sheet of paper and to use email rather than the U.S. Postal Service when possible. The bill got an initial hearing in a subcommittee Tuesday.