In one of its final acts of the 2013 session, the Michigan Senate last Thursday passed a bill that would allow drug testing of some welfare recipients for "reasonable suspicion." The bill passed the GOP-dominated chamber on a straight party line vote.The measure is Senate Bill 275, sponsored by Sen. Joe Hune (R-Hamburg Township). A similar measure passed the House in May. Neither bill has been approved by the other chamber, but both will still be alive and could pass next year.
The bill directs the state Department of Human Services to set up a three-county pilot project of drug screening and testing for the Family Independence Program, the state's program that provides cash assistance to poor families with children and pregnant women.
If the initial screening creates "reasonable suspicion" of drug use, recipients would be required to submit to a drug test. Those who tested positive would be referred for treatment, with a second positive test leading to loss of benefits.
"We have children going to school hungry every day without proper clothing because their parents are addicted to drugs and alcohol," claimed state Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) in remarks reported by Michigan Live. "They receive welfare money but they don't spend it on their children. They spend it on their addiction."
The measure passed the Senate in a straight party-line vote. All Democrats opposed the measure despite winning an amendment that would allow children whose parents test positive for illegal drugs to continue receiving benefits through a third party, such as a guardian.
Drug testing has been a big issue for Michigan Republicans this year. Earlier this year, the legislature passed and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law a bill allowing the state to cut unemployment benefits to anyone who failed a pre-employment drug test.