A bill by West Virginia Republican state Del. Craig Blair that would have mandated random drug testing of people who receive food stamps or unemployment benefits received nationwide publicity, but no respect in Charleston, where the measure is stalled in committee and won't even get a hearing. A last chance effort by Blair to force the bill to a House floor vote Tuesday was defeated 70-30 on a straight party line vote.
The bill, HB 3007, picked up a handful of cosponsors, but also attracted heated opposition from welfare rights, civil liberties, and children's advocacy groups. Opponents argued that requiring drug testing to receive government benefits was most likely unconstitutional, more likely to impact poor families negatively than not, and just downright cruel.
Blair argued that the state was facing "a crisis" of drug abuse among state aid recipients, but never produced evidence to back up his claim. But he has still achieved something: Instant notoriety. Blair, who is not publicity-shy, created his own NotWithMyTaxDollars.com web site to push the bill, and has gotten national media attention. He claims his web site has 50,000 hits now.
But he has also suffered the slings and arrows of outraged fellow legislators. Del. Sally Susman (D-Raleigh) hand delivered a letter to Blair calling his bill the "most ridiculous" of the session. House Judiciary Chairwoman Carrie Webster (D-Kanawha) said of Blair that "he has an idea, but he has no plan," as she explained that many bills never make it to committee agendas.
Blair and his drug testing bill are gone for this year. But similar efforts remain alive in a handful of other states.