Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients Moves to Senate Floor

Posted on Jun 9, 2010 in Drugs, Legislation

The senate committee on Judiciary C has approved House Bill 617 narrowly by a 4-3 vote due to Senator Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas) crossing party lines. The bill would mandate that 20 percent of all recipients of welfare from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Fund be drug tested. Additionally, it would require for all persons receiving federal funds from FITAP to sign consent forms allowing for this screening. The bill, already approved by the House, now moves to the Senate floor for approval later in the week.

The bill’s sponsor, State Rep. John Abruzzo (R- Metairie), argued that the purpose of the bill is to get welfare users, especially single women, off of drugs and move them towards reentering society. “The goal is to support families and not someone’s drug habit,” argued Abruzzo.

The bill received some opposition as well. Sen. Ann Duplessis (D- New Orleans) argued vehemently against the bill claiming that the framework is already in place. Currently, the State Department of Social Services tests close to 15 percent of applicant after their initial screening. “The bill doesn’t put a program in place,” Duplessis contended. “The program is already in place.”

Furthermore, many opponents of HB 617 believe that the bill will be found unconstitutional as it most likely qualifies as an unreasonable search and seizure, thus violating the rights of the recipients of federal funding.

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