JEFFERSON CITY — A bill requiring suspected drug users applying for welfare to be drug tested will be among the first to be heard on the House floor.
The bill was one of the first to be heard in the House Healthcare Transformation Committee, where it was voted out of committee in one day. It was moved out of the Rules Committee Monday after no debate and a 7-4 vote along party lines. It now will move to the House floor.
Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, the sponsor of the bill, said in the healthcare committee hearing on Jan. 13 that taxpayers don't want to subsidize drug use.
One Democrat who voted against the bill Monday, Rep. Jake Zimmerman of St. Louis County, said the intent was good but too many nonstandard rules attached to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families can lead to a loss in federal funds.
"Not every idea that sounds good at first is necessarily a good idea," Zimmerman said.
Because many private industries require drug testing of their employees, state government should test people receiving benefits too, Rep. Larry Wilson, R-Flemington, said.
Employers requiring drug tests may lessen the need for the state to do their own drug tests if the goal of the welfare program is to get people jobs, Zimmerman said.
With this session's budget constraints, it's not possible to provide treatment to all who may be referred, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, said at the healthcare committee hearing.
"Dealing with reality, I think it would just be better to kick them off," Guernsey said.
As originally written, the bill required referrals to drug treatment programs but not actual treatment. An applicant who tested positive would be ineligible for benefits for a year.
In the bill's current form, if someone who tests positive completes a substance abuse program then tests negative within a reasonable period of time, they do not become ineligible.