The North Carolina state Senate voted Wednesday to overrule Gov. Pat McCreary’s veto against testing applicants for public assistance for drugs and implement the policy anyway. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina (ACLU-NC), the state House voted Tuesday to move forward with the tests, which will require some applicants to pay out of pocket for the tests before they can qualify for benefits.
When he vetoed the drug testing bill (North Carolina House Bill 392), he called the measure “a recipe for government overreach and unnecessary government intrusion…that is not a smart way to combat drug abuse.”
In a statement, ACLU-NC Policy Director Sarah Preston said, “It’s very disappointing that the legislature put so much effort into passing this cruel and constitutionally suspect bill. H.B. 392 does nothing to help those who test positive for drug use get treatment, but it does allow the government to conduct costly, unnecessary, and unreasonably intrusive searches of North Carolinians who seek public assistance to care for their families. Forcing people in need to pay up front for urine tests is not only cruel but will likely deter many low-income families from even applying for assistance. Why the legislature was so adamant about passing this bill is unclear, since all available evidence shows that public aid applicants are no more likely to use drugs than the general public, and similar programs in other states have been found to be unconstitutional and fiscally wasteful.”
States that have implemented drug testing policies for welfare applicants have found the practice to be costly and ineffective. Only two percent of applicants tested in Florida under a program instituted by Gov. Rick Scott — whose wife’s medical lab company directly benefitted financially from the short-lived test program — tested positive for drugs, significantly lower than the eight percent of the general population who are believed to use illegal drugs.
Republican legislators told reporters that they still support the governor, but believed that the tests are necessary. State lawmakers also overturned McCrory’s veto against using the state’s E-Verify system to check the immigration status of all workers in the state.
“We’re still on the same team,” said House Majority Edgar Starnes (R).
House Speaker Thom Tillis (R) said in a statement that in spite of overruling the governor’s wishes, state Republicans “appreciate his leadership and continue to have great confidence in his administration.”