Texas Senate approves drug testing for welfare

Texas Senate approves drug testing for welfare

About 100,000 people in Texas every year receive welfare benefits. The $90-million program, which went from paper food stamps to a plastic format that works like pre-paid credit cards is officially called "temporary assistance for needy families."

Senate Bill 11, if it becomes law, would require drug testing to get a cash benefit that totals about $200 a month for a family of three.

Some of those who have been enrolled in the program support the idea.

"You would not mind? I would not mind one bit, No, I smoked a little pot when I was young but I'm told old for that stuff no more," said Randy Meitzen.

Others believe the punishment doesn't fit the crime.

"Nah, I don't think it's really a good idea. Because I think there's a lot of people out there that need it that may be doing marijuana, or whatever, I don't think it's a problem," said Mike Swift.

A person would have to fail three drug tests before losing benefits. The legislation cleared the state senate after being amended to ensure money would still go to an applicant's children.

 

Those who fail the test can reapply for assistance only after going through a substance abuse treatment program. To idea is to create a tough love law that will force an addict to get help.

"A different definition of compassion is one in which we are going to allow you an opportunity to get your life in order we are going to give you more than one chance but we are not going to let you play the state of Texas or the taxpayers of this state for suckers while you ... continue down a path that's destructive to you and your neighbors," said Republican Consultant Ted Delisi.

Adding this requirement is estimated to cost the state at least $3 million a year. Those opposed to SB11 say it's based on an unfair stereotype that most of those who get welfare are hooked on drugs.

"You could make an argument that ok why isn't everybody that's getting state government benefits susceptible to this why are we not drug testing the executives who get enterprise fund money to attract business to Texas why are we not drug testing the legislators who get their salary from their state," said Democratic Strategist Harold Cook.

According to State Senator Jane Nelson, who sponsored the bill, seven other states have passed laws requiring drug testing for welfare benefits. Her plan is now pending action in the house. Earlier this year a federal appeals court struck down a similar law in Florida, while it was in effect there 98 percent of those who were tested passed.

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