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Welfare Drug Test Bills Fail in South Dakota, Virginia

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #721)
Drug War Issues

The push to mandate drug testing for recipients of public benefits is sweeping statehouses across the country this year, but in two states, those efforts hit a roadblock last week. In South Dakota and Virginia, bills were either defeated or deferred.

In South Dakota, the House Health and Human Services Committee last Monday killed a pair of bills that would have required people receiving welfare or Medicaid benefits to undergo random, suspicionless drug testing. House Bill 1268, introduced by Rep. Mark Kirkeby, would have directed the state to create a drug testing pilot program for Medicaid recipients, while House Bill 1174, introduced by Rep. Mark Venner (R-Pierre), would have mandated drug testing for welfare recipients based on "reasonable cause." Both bills would have thrown people who tested positive off the programs.

But after Social Services Secretary Kil Malsam-Rysdon testified that federal law barred drug testing for people on Medicaid and that drug testing welfare recipients hadn't saved any money where it had been implemented, the two measures were voted down, or, in South Dakota's unique legislative language "deferred to the 41st legislative day." (The session only lasts 40 days.)

"If this passes, Medicaid in South Dakota would not exist," she said, referring to Kirkeby's bill. As for Venner's bill, if people suspect welfare recipients are using drugs, they should call the cops or children's services officials, Malsam-Rysdon said. "There are other systems to deal with illegal drug use," she added.

That same day, a Virginia House Appropriations Committee subcommittee voted to defer action on a welfare drug testing bill for this session. Two days later, the committee followed the lead of the subcommittee, so the bill will see no further action this year, although it could be taken up again next year.

The bill, House Bill 73, would have required local social service agencies to screen welfare recipients for probable cause they were using drugs, and if probable cause was found, subject them to a full substance abuse assessment, which could include drug tests. Participants who failed the drug test would have been ineligible for benefits for a year unless they completed a drug treatment program.

Legislators expressed concern about the bill's cost after the Department of Planning and Budget estimated that the drug testing provision would cost the state $1.3 million in its first year and $1 million a year thereafter.

"It's just that the money situation is tight," subcommittee Chair Del. Riley Ingram (R-Hopewell) said Monday explaining his vote.

A companion measure in the Senate, though, is still alive. It is before the Senate Finance Committee.

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


J-Truth (not verified)

Yeah federal government you can F#$% off as far as piss testing for welfare. Especially since you give people cash and they blow it on booze and cigarettes instead of food for their children. Fix the god damn thing before you go trying to add new laws and regulations to it. Stop drunks from getting beer through uncle sam then we can talk about piss testing welfare people. Take it from me I worked in a grocery store for 6 years and saw drunks using their EBT cash for booze and cigarettes all the time. Must me nice for Uncle Sam to support your bad habits. 

Fri, 02/10/2012 - 5:02pm Permalink
OneCrankyDem (not verified)

 To test those who in need before remembering that ALL Americans are to be assumed Innocent not the other way around. To force a American to give evidence against his own welfare also violated the Constitutional Right of not giving the gov. info that could hurt you.


  Most of those needy enough to go through the wringer the gov. already puts them through to get their children barely enough to sleep at night don't have then time of energy to waste on drugs through they could probably use a toke or two.

  Fed. law already dictates that no can buy any alcohol, paper, or tobacco products with fed. dollars. This is all just another witch hunt to distract how far off the cliff those on the right drove our country.

  Law and Order would mean those who raided the Country's Wealth and crashed our economy would go before a Judge and jury right before they do their twenty yrs. just like our drug dealers do.

  Once our money is spent chasing the real crooks, only then will we know how to treat the Poor, Elderly, and Disabled.

Sat, 02/11/2012 - 1:28am Permalink
kickback (not verified)

Election year + drug war + federal/state bandwagon tactics = FAIL . What a surprise . Drug War proponents have to justify their budgets . Common Sense 101 . Common Sense 101 also dictates that Cannabis prohibition is an abject failure . Imagine a human , spending their time and their life , fighting against a " plant " . Even though they get paid to do it . I would not like to have to explain my life to GOD as a fighter against a plant . GOD forbid .

Sun, 02/12/2012 - 3:02am Permalink

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