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Georgia signs welfare drug-testing bill into law

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, April 17, 2012 14:55 EDT
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Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal has signed House Bill 861 into law, a controversial measure which will require drug testing of all applicants for public assistance, according to the Associated Press. The Social Responsibility and Accountability Act was passed by the state’s deliberative bodies in votes that broke down along party lines, then signed by Governor Deal on Monday night.

Similar bills in other states have been struck down by judges as unconstitutional. Georgia state legislator John Albers (R-Roswell), one of the original sponsors of the bill that became The Social Responsibility and Accountability Act, said the he crafted the legislation specifically to elide constitutional concerns such as the ones raised in a Florida challenge to that state’s drug testing law.

“Drug testing is so commonplace,” he said, “We worked very closely with folks in other states and attorneys’ general offices to address all of the concerns.”

When contacted by email, Georgia’s Department of Human Services told Raw Story, “The Department is aware that Governor Deal signed HB 861 into law. Policy and program experts are currently reviewing the legislation to understand the full impact of the law on the Department of Human Services.”

The law is expected to face legal challenges virtually as soon as it goes into effect. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Gerry Weber told the AP that his group is preparing to mount a challenge to the law.

Weber expressed disappointment in Governor Deal, saying Georgia “should await the outcome of Florida litigation involving the exact same drug-testing scheme. It’s going to take a while for them to implement this. That would all have to happen before any lawsuit can be filed.”

In addition to legal challenges, such drug-testing laws have yet to produce any savings for the states that have implemented them. Florida’s testing law ended up costing the state more money than it saved until court challenges placed it in legal limbo.

Drug tests for welfare recipients in Indiana came back positive less than one percent of the time. Studies have shown, in fact, that welfare recipients use drugs at a significantly lower rate than the general population.

Nonetheless, Georgia Republicans are pressing ahead with the new law. It is expected to go into effect on July 1.

(image via Shutterstock)

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
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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