House Speaker Rod Jetton (R-Marble Hill) has pushed through the House a couple of nutrition bills he sponsors, though he has had to fend off criticism he considers unfair.Both bills have passed with overwhelming support in the House, but it was difficult to discern such support during the initial round of debate on the issues.
Once a House Speaker climbs down from the dais to engage in floor debate, he becomes too tempting a target for minority party members to pass up. House Minority Floor Leader Jeff Harris (D-Columbia) questions Jetton on whether his bills will spark unintended consequences. And Harris gets in a jab at Jetton by reminding the Speaker that a state agency estimates it will take at least one if not two new employees to run his tax credit program, which Harris refers to as a "new government program", an obvious slap at Jetton’s conservative, small government philosophy. Jetton dismisses criticism of the two nutrition bills, especially one that would provide a state supplemental to food stamps for senior citizens. One critic attacked it as a "pathetic gesture", a phrase that offends Jetton. Jetton says his bill is an attempt to provide real help for real people.
The bill, HB 454 , would provide a state supplement for federal food stamps to raise allocations to $30 a month for individuals, $60 for couples, at a cost of three million dollars to the state. Jetton’s other bill, HB 453 , would provide a tax credit of up to $2,500 for donations of cash or food to a local food pantry. It is capped at two million dollars a year. Both bills now move to the Senate.