Bill requiring drug tests for some welfare applicants moves forward

Monday, January 25, 2010 | 10:52 p.m. CST

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.

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marvin saunders January 26, 2010 | 4:15 a.m.

Whats taking so long.It should pass but it won't because 90 percent of the people tested wouldn't pass then the state would lose all that funding.Am i right or wrong

(Report Comment)
John Schultz January 26, 2010 | 8:58 a.m.

Um, you do realize the session just started less than two weeks ago? And I think you're estimate of 90% failing a drug test is way too high (no pun intended, but I'll keep that in there). The state has to balance the cost of the drug test with the cost of the benefits as well, something I think I saw someone mention when this was brought up during last year's session.

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jacobs January 26, 2010 | 10:26 a.m.

This measure will cost far more to implement and execute than it will ever save. It's just gives incumbents an opportunity to say "look, I voted to get tough on welfare."

But, does this bill apply to corporate welfare as well? If the state offers tax abatements to a corporation, so they will relocate to Missouri, will the Board of Directors be subject to drug testing?

Leave it to our enlightened General Assembly to try to kick a citizen while they're down. Nice work.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 26, 2010 | 11:57 a.m.

Any single parent or guardian involved in substance abuse should be encouraged to participate in a treatment program. IMHO, this is more of a "putting children at risk" problem then a TANF problem.
Department of Social Services caseworkers should care enough about the children of their clients to report such high "at-risk" situations. We owe this to our kids.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock January 26, 2010 | 3:51 p.m.

Danial how are they kicking a citizen when they are down? If they are drug free then it shouldn't be a big deal. I mean it isn't like they are missing work to go take the test. If corporations are bringing in hundreds of jobs I don't know why anyone would care what a privately owned businesses owner does in their off time.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro January 26, 2010 | 4:38 p.m.


States receive a block grant to design and operate their programs to accomplish the purposes of TANF.

These are:

1. Assisting needy families so that children can be cared for in their own homes.
2. Reducing the dependency of needy parents by promoting job preparation, work and marriage.
3. Preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
4, Encouraging the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.")
source and more:
-I contend that substance abuse, which puts the children at-risk, needs to be addressed, if the goals of the TANF program are to be attained.
If the issue of substance abuse is not addressed, then the government needs to change their goals to match their actions and in effect condone substance abuse in the TANF households and ignore at-risk situations.

(Report Comment)

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