Drug Tests for Welfare? GOP Still Pushing

Similar laws have been declared unconstitutional, but that's not stopping Republicans from proposing them. 

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Having conducted a review of state legislative action over the past several weeks, Colorlines reports that while the majority of the nation's attention has been focused on negotiations surrounding the upcoming "fiscal cliff," Republicans across the country have been making plans for those dealing with their own personal economic crises.

Several states have proposed bills requiring drug tests for poor and unemployed people seeking government assistance, and thanks to the composition of many state legislatures since the November election, more are likely on the way. The fact that similar laws have been declared unconstitutional doesn't seem to be stopping anyone, either.

Supporters of the laws say they are intended to keep government benefits and taxpayer dollars out of the hands of drug users. Welfare, they say, exists to support families and children, not enable addicts. But there is scare evidence of a significant problem of drug use among welfare applicant, and courts have already declared similar laws unconstitutional. Moreover, states that have actually implemented testing laws have paid hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions of dollars to test applicants and defend against court challenges, while finding few people who actually test positive.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a law last year requiring all applicants to the state's welfare program to urinate in a cup. It was the first law of its kind since 1999, when Michigan passed a drug testing bill for welfare recipients. The Michigan law lasted just over a month before a judge blocked it on the grounds that it violates the 4th Ammendment protection against unreasonable searches.

For whatever reason, Florida lawmakers believed they'd get a legal pass, but the ACLU of Florida quickly asked a federal judge to block the law on similar constitutional ground. The court agreed and the state of Florida appealed to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, which has yet to issue an opinion following arguments on the bill's constitutionality last month.

For all of the resources Scott has poured into creating and defending the Florida program, it found just 2 percent of applicants who tested positive for drugs ...

Read more at Colorlines.

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