Claim: Various states have passed laws requiring that public assistance recipients pass a drug testing program.
MIXTURE OF TRUE AND FALSE INFORMATION
[Collected via e-mail, January 2011]
I've regularly seen this post today on Facebook:
"Kentucky just passed a great law. To be eligible for food stamps, medicaid, or cash assistance for your children or yourself, you have to pass a DRUG test. Now every other state should do the same! If you agree re-post."
Is there any truth to this?
[Collected via e-mail, August 2011]
One down......49 to go!!!
Florida is the first state as of June 1, 2011- Hooray for Florida!
Florida is the first state that is now going to require drug testing for welfare! Some people are crying this is unconstitutional. How is this unconstitutional? It's completely legal that every other working person had to pass a drug test in order to have a J-O-B that supports those on welfare? Forward if you agree!! Let's get Welfare back to the ones who NEED it, not those that WON'T get a JOB.....I AGREE!!!
Pass it on if you agree!!!!
Origins: On 7 January 2011, HB208 was introduced to the Kentucky state legislature's House of Representatives. That bill sought to modify existing state rules to require that adults who receive public assistance participate in (and pass) a substance abuse screening program once a year:
(10) (a) The cabinet shall design and implement a substance abuse screening program for adult persons receiving or seeking to receive monetary public assistance, food stamps under the federal food stamp program, or assistance under the state medical assistance program, with the screening program including periodic testing of the person's blood or urine for the presence of controlled substances as set out in this section.
(b) An adult person shall be ineligible for public assistance if:
1. The person does not participate in the substance abuse screening program established under this section; or
2. The person tests positive in a substance abuse test administered by the program for the presence of:
a. A schedule I controlled substance; or
b. A schedule II - V controlled substance not prescribed for that person.
(c) The substance abuse testing component of the screening program shall be designed so as to require that testing occurs as an initial condition precedent prior to the receipt of public assistance and once for each subsequent year the adult person receives public assistance, with the person being randomly assigned a month within that year to submit to testing upon receipt of reasonable notice from the cabinet.
(d) The results of testing conducted under this subsection shall not be admissible in any criminal proceeding without the consent of the person tested.
However, contrary to what was stated in the Facebook-circulated example cited above, it is false to say that Kentucky "passed" such a law. The current bill was merely a proposal which was introduced to one house of the state legislature and was not brought to a vote.
According to the [Louisville] Courier-Journal:
The [bill's] sponsor, Lancaster Republican Lonnie Napier, said in an interview that he plans to amend the bill to allow those who fail the drug tests to continue receiving assistance if they agree to undergo state-paid substance abuse treatment.
If they refuse treatment, they would lose the assistance, he said.
Napier said the goal "is to get people off drugs."
"I'm not a hard-hearted guy," he said. "I believe there is a need for public assistance for those who need it, but I understand some are using these funds to buy drugs."
In July 2011, the state of Florida enacted a law requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screening:
Saying it is "unfair for Florida taxpayers to subsidize drug addiction," Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation requiring adults applying for welfare assistance to undergo drug screening.
"It's the right thing for taxpayers," Scott said after signing the measure. "It's the right thing for citizens of this state that need public assistance. We don't want to waste tax dollars. And also, we want to give people an incentive to not use drugs."
Under the law, which takes effect on July 1, the Florida Department of Children and Family Services will be required to conduct the drug tests on adults applying to the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The aid recipients would be responsible for the cost of the screening, which they would recoup in their assistance if they qualify. Those who fail the required drug testing may designate another individual to receive the benefits on behalf of their children.
The Tampa Tribune reported the following month that 2% of welfare recipients had tested positive under the newly implemented law:
Since the state began testing welfare applicants for drugs in July, about 2 percent have tested positive, preliminary data shows.
Ninety-six percent proved to be drug free — leaving the state on the hook to reimburse the cost of their tests.
The initiative may save the state a few dollars anyway, bearing out one of Gov. Rick Scott's arguments for implementing it. But the low test fail-rate undercuts another of his arguments: that people on welfare are more likely to use drugs.
Cost of the tests averages about $30. Assuming that 1,000 to 1,500 applicants take the test every month, the state will owe about $28,800-$43,200 monthly in reimbursements to those who test drug-free.
That compares with roughly $32,200-$48,200 the state may save on one month's worth of rejected applicants.
The savings assume that 20 to 30 people — 2 percent of 1,000 to 1,500 tested — fail the drug test every month. On average, a welfare recipient costs the state $134 in monthly benefits, which the rejected applicants won't get, saving the state $2,680-$3,350 per month.
But since one failed test disqualifies an applicant for a full year's worth of benefits, the state could save $32,200-$48,200 annually on the applicants rejected in a single month.
Net savings to the state — $3,400 to $8,200 annually on one month's worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800-$98,400 for the cash assistance program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year.
In October 2011, a federal judge issued a temporary injunction blocking Florida's drug-testing law for welfare recipients:
A federal judge in Orlando temporarily blocked Florida's controversial law requiring welfare applicants be drug tested in order to receive benefits.
Judge Mary Scriven issued a temporary injunction against the state, writing in a 37-page order that the law could violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment ban on illegal search and seizure.
In her order, Scriven issued a scathing assessment of the state's argument in favor of the drug tests, saying the state failed to prove "special needs" as to why it should conduct such searches without probable cause or reasonable suspicion, as the law requires.
"If invoking an interest in preventing public funds from potentially being used to fund drug use were the only requirement to establish a special need," Scriven wrote, "the state could impose drug testing as an eligibility requirement for every beneficiary of every government program. Such blanket intrusions cannot be countenanced under the Fourth Amendment."
Also in July 2011, Missouri governor Jay Nixon signed off on a similar bill in that state:
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon has signed legislation requiring drug screens for some individuals receiving or applying for certain welfare benefits.
Officials will administer drug tests when they have reasonable cause to believe an applicant or recipient is using illegal drugs.
Under the bill, welfare recipients would lose their benefits for three years if they fail a urine test that screens for narcotics. But the measure would allow them to receive benefits if they complete a drug treatment program and do not test positive again.
In 1999 the state of Michigan implemented a program requiring random drug testing for welfare recipients, but that program was halted after a federal court ruled that it violated Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable search and seizure.
In May 2012, Oklahoma passed a law requiring welfare applicants to be screened for possible drug use and drug tested upon suspicion they are using. They would be denied benefits if they test positive.