Texas And Kansas Approve Bills For Drug Testing Welfare Recipients

on March 27 2013 3:06 PM
Orange County Deputy Probation Officer Christine Torres holds a drug testing kit
The Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee has approved a bill to require drug screening welfare applicants before receiving welfare. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Some Texas welfare recipients might need to pee in a cup before receiving their benefits.

A Texas senate committee unanimously approved a bill Tuesday that will require drug screening for welfare recipients to make sure the money they receive won’t be used to buy drugs, AP reports.

The bill will let the Texas Health and Human Services Commission screen applicants. Those who appear to use drugs or have been convicted of drug use in the past will have to get tested, the news outlet reports.

Texas isn’t the only state that’s approved drug testing for some of its poorest residents. Utah, Georgia, Tennessee and Oklahoma have passed similar legislation, according to the NCSL.

The Kansas House unanimously approved a similar bill Tuesday, the Kansas City Star reports.

“We’re trying to help people get job training and substance abuse treatment,” Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., told the news outlet.

Anyone who fails the drug test would need to seek treatment and receive job skills training paid by the Kansas state and federal government.

“There is no data to suggest that people in need of government assistance are more likely to be drug users. There is no disturbing trend of increased drug use among those on unemployment,” the Dallas Morning News writes in an op-ed piece about the measure. “These are bills in search of a problem.”

The paper points to Florida as an example of how the bill failed. The state passed a similar law in 2011 before a federal judge later blocked it.

Out of 4,086 people who were tested in the Sunshine State, only 180 or 2.6 percent failed costing the state $45,780.

In Texas, some worried the bill would have a negative impact on children.

“We don’t want to punish the children,” Sen. Jane Nelson, the bill’s sponsor,  told the Dallas Morning News. “But I don’t want to be an enabler.”

In a compromise the Texas bill has a special provision to protect children of welfare recipients. If a parent fails two drug tests, a “protective payee” like a grandparent will receive the benefits on behalf of the child, the Dallas Morning News reports.

The bill still has to be passed by the full Texas Senate and House before becoming law, Fox 29 reports.

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