Republicans have made headlines this year by demanding that people collecting unemployment benefits and public assistance be subject to drug testing. Now Iowa Republican state senator Mark Chelgren (Ottumwa) proposed Thursday that people who receive child support payments should also be drug tested if the person paying the support requests it, according to a report at Think Progress.
Chelgren submitted the measure as an amendment to a budget bill currently before the Iowa state senate. He claims the idea for the proposal came from an unidentified constituent who was concerned that his ex wife was using child support money to buy drugs.
Under the provision, payers of child support would be able to have their former partners tested for drugs every six months if they were willing to cover the costs associated with testing.
The Des Moines Register‘s “Iowa Politics” blog reports that the proposal was met by hoots of derision and open laughter by some Democrats. Sen. Jack Hatch (D-Des Moines) decried the measure as anti-woman and warned that it could be easily abused in acrimonious divorces by “vindictive spouses.”
“We shouldn’t be ducking our head and running away every time there’s a difficult issue coming up,” Chelgren countered, but ultimately the senator was forced to withdraw the amendment.
Chelgren is pushing forward, however, with a proposal to drug test people collecting public assistance and unemployment, in spite of the fact that laws in similar states have been shown to provide little or no savings to state budgets. Florida’s drug-testing law, which many Republican state statutes are based on, has ended up costing the state more than it has saved.
Studies have shown that people on public assistance are statistically less likely to use drugs than the general population. In Indiana, where one such mandatory testing law was enacted, only 1 percent of public assistance applicants tested positive for drug use.
One public opinion poll in Georgia, where a similar law is before the state legislature, showed that while 64 percent of the population supports drug testing for welfare recipients, 79 percent of those surveyed support drug testing for politicians, judges and other elected officials. 64 percent of respondents supprot testing for CEOs of companies that receive government money.
Chelgren’s proposal to drug test recipients of unemployment and public assistance benefits is being debated in the state senate today.
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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