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Bill requiring drug tests for welfare recipients advances

A nurse prepares drug screening test. | Sun-Times MediFile Photo

A nurse prepares a drug screening test. | Sun-Times Media File Photo

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Updated: February 26, 2013 9:33AM



INDIANAPOLIS — A bill requiring people who receive state welfare assistance to take a drug test passed the House with a vote of 78-17 Monday.

The bill’s author, Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said the bill would not disqualify benefits if a recipient fails the drug test, but would encourage the individual to seek treatment.

The bill would cost $1.191 million in the first year to implement the program, then an annual $500,000 to continue the program.

A similar bill that also required state legislators to take the same drug test last year passed the House, but failed to move in the Senate.

McMillin stated the bill would also help ensure the benefits paid out would go for food and shelter, instead of drugs.

“This is not meant to be a gotcha program,” McMillin said. “It’s not meant to kick people off. It’s designed to give people help.”

Democratic House members voiced concern the bill focuses more on identifying drug users rather than helping them recover. They also questioned the constitutionality of requiring the test.

“This seems to send a strange message to all our constituents,” Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, said. “It says that we don’t trust a certain segment of our community because they need our assistance.”

In Florida, drug-testing of welfare recicients has been in and out of court for two years.

A story in the Tampa Bay Times from April 2012, says only 2.6 percent or 108 of 4,086 applicants failed the $35 test. Of those, most tested positive for marijuana.

According to the story, Florida lost $45,780 on the testing.

The law is currently blocked by a federal judge, according to MSNBC.



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