Indiana is making it a bit harder for people to receive welfare by passing a bill that will enforce mandatory drug testing. The proposal to require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to take written drug tests passed in the House Monday with a vote of 78-17. The bill will require people to pay for their own drug tests out of their assistance checks and require anyone with drugs in their system to enroll in a treatment program or lose their benefits:
If the individual tests positive on a drug test administered under this chapter,the amount of the cost of any subsequent drug test the individual is required to undergo will be withheld from the TANF assistance the individual receives, if the individual continues to receive TANF assistance, regardless of whether the individual tests positive or tests negative on the subsequent drug test.
“The impetus of this bill is to identify folks who have a problem and help them,” explained Republican Representative Jud McMillin. McMillian authored the bill to make sure people who receive TANF aren’t using it to buy drugs. Recipients would take a written test first. The test includes questions like: True or false? Most people would lie to get what they want? and I have a drink first thing in the morning to steady my nerves? If the written test showed a propensity for drug use, the recipient could be chosen for a monthly random drug test.
“If you get tested and you’re clean, then you won’t be retested,” said McMillin.
Now just because a test could show propensity to having an addictive personality, does it actually mean a person could be using drugs? I have a propensity for sugar, but you don’t see 8 boxes for Twinkies sitting in my kitchen. This is the exact issue the ACLU has with the bill.
“Merely showing a propensity for an addictive personality on a test should not be deemed to be cause for anything,” argued Ken Falk with the ACLU. Falk said the proposal violates the Constitution. “I think somehow when we do stuff to poor people, we take a pass on basic constitutional rights,” said Falk.
Also, is the state taking in account people may not exactly give honest questions? I’ve always said, the world is filled with honest people, when they’re not lying. I guess the state feels that everyone will truthfully answer the questions, even though they know a failed test could implicate them in drug use and halt their benefits.
Indiana isn’t the first state to attempt drug testing welfare recipients. Two years ago, Florida Federal Judge Mary Scriven ruled that the law may violate the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures: “This potential interception of positive drug tests by law enforcement implicates a ‘far more substantial’ invasion of privacy than in ordinary civil drug testing cases.” It was also discovered that the tests only caught a small percentage of drug users and ended up being considered wasteful spending. Out of the 4,086 applicants tested in Florida, 108 people failed, mostly for marijuana. $118,140 was spent by tax payers to reimburse people for drug test costs, which ended up with a state’s net loss of $45,780. It’s estimated that this new bill will cost Indiana a half-million dollars, but could possibly (the operative word is possibly) save over $1.5 million.
What do you think about laws such as these?
*Update: Speaking of Florida… federal appeals court today struck a blow to a 2011 Florida law requiring drug tests for all applicants to the state’s welfare program…. suspicionless testing laws will not stand.