Welfare Drug Testing Bill Moving in Virginia

A Republican-backed bill that would subject welfare recipients to drug testing has passed a second committee vote and now heads for the Senate floor. The bill was approved in the Senate Rehabilitation and Social Services Committee earlier this month and passed out of the Senate Finance Committee Tuesday on a 10-5 vote.

The bill, Senate Bill 721, would require all 14,500 participants in the state's welfare-to-work program to undergo preliminary screening to assess their likelihood of drug use. Those flagged as potential drug users would then be tested by the Department of Social Services.

Failing a drug test would result in loss of benefits for a year, as would refusing to take one. But benefits could be reinstated if the person undergoes drug treatment. That provision was added in hopes of making the bill more palatable to the House, where a similar measure died last year.

"It's been toned down quite a bit from the original thing. "If there's welfare recipients using, we can help them with their addiction," said Sen. Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach) who sits on the Finance Committee. "You're hoping welfare payments are going to support families and not to purchase narcotics," he said in remarks reported by the Washington Examiner.

But opponents of the legislation said drug testing welfare recipients stigmatizes poor people and unfairly targets them while not aiming at other recipients of government largesse, such as students who receive college tuition grants, small businesses that get economic assistance, or legislators who get their paychecks from the state.

"Why are Republicans so suspicious of poor people? It begs the question," said Sen. Louise Lucas (D-Portsmouth). "This is insulting. The fact is, very few of those who qualify for temporary public assistance use illegal drugs."

Virginia is one of at least a dozen states where bills mandating drug testing for public benefits recipients have been filed so far this year. That number is likely to increase as the legislative season gears up. Last year, about two dozen such bills were filed, but only one in Georgia passed.

Florida had passed a welfare drug testing bill in 2011, but it has been put on hold by a federal court judge while she considers whether to rule it unconstitutional as a suspicionless search under the Fourth Amendment. Georgia, too, has put its bill on hold pending that decision.

The Virginia bill, however, seeks to avoid that constitutional problem by adding the preliminary step of screening in order to have a "reasonable suspicion" as the basis for the drug testing.

Richmond, VA
United States
Permission to Reprint: This article is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license.
Looking for the easiest way to join the anti-drug war movement? You've found it!

You contradicted yourself.

Will the bill require it for all 14,500 recipients, or will it only affect those that have reasonable suspicion? Both can't be true at once, and you've stated both.

Who will it help?

I can see the kids paying the price for this not so bright move! Who is going to look at these people and say who gets tested and who doesn't? Sounds like discrimination to me. So your caseworker doesn't like how you look so your put on the list to be tested. You test positive for marijuana you smoked two weeks ago at your best friends birthday. Now the welfare caseworker takes your kids away, forces you to be in a rehabilitation program for addiction to marijuana! You do NOT get addicted to marijuana it's an old outdated myth based on lies!! So the state takes your kids so the state can take care of them thru fosters. You are forced into rehab, paid for by the state! So no money! No place to live. Your on the street homeless, your kids stuck in the state system! It's totally crazy circle! Now if Virginia and the rest of the US would legalize marijuana the family wouldn't have been put into this crazy mess! There would be jobs for everyone! The farming of hemp would produce a lot of jobs! Medical marijuana grown for patients. LEGALIZE MARIJUANA! GET THIS COUNTRY OUT OF DEBT BY USING YOUR OWN COUNTRY'S RESOURCES!!! LOWER UNEMPLOYMENT BY CREATING JOBS, GO TO WORK, CRIME WILL DROP, REGULATE MARIJUANA LIKE ALCOHOL AND DRUG USE BY TEENS!

Government $$$

The Government has plenty of money to give out to " Big Business " , but how dare a family in need ask for a dime from the Government . The proof is in the pudding .....

Screening is Highly Inaccurate

Remove all of the politics: The screening, or this type of testing is so cheap and inaccurate the false negative rate is just as high as the false positives. Hence the word 'screen'. Cross reactivity is very high with immunoassay, ELIZA, EMIT, etc. You can check the inserts that are included with the devices...it's not hidden...and is a fact. This bill caters to a large group of drug test screening cup/device distritbutors and manufacturers who fought tooth and nail to offer the cheapest devices out there to this government group all under the veil of 'cracking down' on the poor folks that need food. The same mentality that locks up people for minor drug offenses for the rest of their lives. The only way to truly 'crack down' on the 'war on drug use' is to use a laboratory who uses validated chromatography methods in which drugs can be quantified. I guarantee that this is not part of their bill consistently. I am sure that they have a notation, that if there is a positive screen result, it may move on to confirmation at a predetermined laboratory...but I am wondering if that is at the cost of the receipent or the tax payers? If it is at the tax payers expense, you can bet that again, the cheapest service out there has been selected--potentially simply another screen. And the recipients don't know any better, and can't afford quality laboratory work if it is at their expense. Unconstitutional.

Test the Politicians.

Remember the story from Italy a few years ago when a TV show interviewed a lot of politicians and when they did their make-up secretly drug tested them. 

They found that 22% of them had been using cannabis and 8% had been using cocaine.

Would America's politicians be any different?

Running a country is the most responsible job of all. 

Surely if anyone is going to be drug tested it should be the politicians themselves.

Discriminating against groups in the community and removing them from their homes has happened before and it led to some of the world's greatest atrocities. 

Law's like this cannot work and when they fail the Gestapo in charge of them simply escalate their brutal rampage.

This intolerable intolerance must be circumvented before it gets out of hand and turns into something demonic.

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