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Strange allies: Joe Redner and Sen. Ronda Storms agree on welfare bill

TALLAHASSEE — On this, believe it or not, Tampa strip club king Joe Redner and conservative firebrand Sen. Ronda Storms agree:

Welfare recipients should not be allowed to use government-issued debit cards in strip clubs or casinos.

After years of bitter clashes over Redner's Tampa strip club empire, Redner and Storms are oddly aligned in favor of a bill that would prohibit people from accessing government cash at places like Redner's Mons Venus strip club or the Seminole Hard Rock Casino.

"I don't think the people who are getting money from the government for their kids should be able to use their damn cards in strip clubs," Redner said. "It's expensive! I charge $20 to get into Mons Venus."

Storms' bill, SB 1658, made national headlines for its attempts to regulate where and how people could spend their government assistance.

The House this week scrapped a part of the bill that banned food stamp recipients from using federal dollars on junk food.

But, by a 92-23 margin, it kept in place language that prohibits welfare debit withdrawals out-of-state as well as at strip clubs and casinos.

Storms, R-Valrico, hopes the Senate will approve both the strip club and junk food language before the legislative session is scheduled to wrap up Friday, and that she can broker a compromise with the House.

Gas stations, grocery stores and food manufacturers such as Kraft Foods have lobbied against the junk food ban. Storms said she will be disappointed if the bill passes without it.

"It would be like being in a softball game and hitting a home run, but still losing the game," she said.

During Thursday's House debate, some lawmakers expressed concern that the bill would prevent welfare recipients near the Georgia border from using their cards freely.

Rep. Jim Waldman, D-Coconut Creek, called the bill an "unnecessary intrusion."

Yet, several lawmakers praised the proposal's promise to protect families and taxpayer dollars.

"The idea that someone could take monies from the taxpayers of this state to use it in a gambling hall, I can't imagine anyone in this chamber would think that's a good idea," said Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa.

Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, railed against those who said it would be a hardship on welfare recipients.

"What's mean spirited about taking care of kids?" he said. "How do we make sure this money isn't stuck in the garter of a stripper or stuck in a slot machine?"

Brittany Alana Davis can be reached at bdavis@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263.

Strange allies: Joe Redner and Sen. Ronda Storms agree on welfare bill 03/02/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 2, 2012 10:30pm]
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