Wisconsin asks federal court to clarify food stamp drug testing law
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Wisconsin's attorney general on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asking a federal judge if the state can drug test some food stamp recipients, a policy supported by Republican Governor Scott Walker, a presidential candidate.

The lawsuit asks a judge to clarify whether federal law allows Wisconsin to drug test food stamp recipients who participate in the state's Foodshare employment program, which is required for able-bodied adults without dependents.

The policy was included in the state budget and went into effect on Tuesday. Walker signed the two-year, $73 billion budget on Sunday, a day before he declared his candidacy for the Republican nomination for president.

"Our reforms offer a hand up to those who need it, so they can get back on their feet through drug treatment and access to employment training," Walker said in a statement.

Attorney General Brad Schimel, who filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Milwaukee, said state officials had been advised by the U.S. Agriculture Department that drug testing of state Foodshare program recipients was not allowed.

Schimel said in a statement the Agriculture Department stance is contrary to federal law that allows states to drug test food stamp recipients.

An Agriculture Department representative could not immediately be reached for comment. No lawyers were listed for the department in online court records.

The federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program provides nutrition assistance to low-income individuals and families and is administered by both the USDA and state agencies.

Wisconsin joined 13 other states that have enacted laws that allow public assistance recipients to be screened or drug tested, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Eric Beech)