Tennessee House panel advances welfare drug testing bill

By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, April 23, 2012 17:21 EDT
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A Tennessee House committee on Monday approved legislation that would require welfare applicants to undergo a drug screening before receiving benefits, according to the Associated Press.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Rep. Julia Hurley, rejected an amendment that would require lawmakers in the state to undergo a similar analysis.

The legislation requires applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program — which helps poor families with children pay for living expenses such as rent, heat, utilities and personal care items — to undergo a drug screening. Those who test positive for an illegal substance would be unable to claim benefits for 6 months, unless they agree to receive addiction treatment.

Tennessee lawmakers amended the original bill after the state’s attorney general said it could violate applicants constitutional rights. Under the amended version, applicants would be given a drug screening and only those suspected of abusing illegal drugs would be required to take a drug test.

However, the Tennessee Department of Human Services said the proposed law could still face legal challenges.

Republican state lawmakers across the nation have pushed to drug test welfare applicants. Florida, Arizona, Utah, Georgia and Missouri have approved laws requiring low-income parents seeking federal assistance to pass a drug test.

Michigan previously tried to implement a welfare drug testing law, but it was struck down as unconstitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in 2003.

U.S. District Court Judge Victoria Roberts held that the rationale behind drug testing welfare recipients “could be used for testing the parents of all children who received Medicaid, State Emergency Relief, educational grants or loans, public education or any other benefit from that State.”

[Urinalysis test via Shutterstock]

Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan
Eric W. Dolan has served as an editor for Raw Story since August 2010, and is based out of Sacramento, California. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and received a Bachelor of Science from Bradley University. Eric is also the publisher and editor of PsyPost. You can follow him on Twitter @ewdolan.
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