State Government and Welfare and Legislation and Government & Economic Development and Government

Bill to drug-test welfare recipients will be back

January 9, 2014

A bill that would require some welfare recipients to undergo drug testing is not part of the Indiana House Republican agenda but is likely to pass the House again this year, a key lawmaker said Thursday.

House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, said the controversial bill is “one we’re going to enthusiastically endorse and move forward on.”

“We’ve had this battle before and I think the time is right to move forward on that issue,” he said. “And we will see that bill move forward I think.”

Last year, the bill passed the House but not the Senate. It would have required all recipients of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families – the state’s case-assistance welfare program – to take a written test to determine drug-abuse tendencies. Those identified would be pooled together and half of those subjected to a random drug test.

Critics of the bill, including Rep. Cherrish Pryor, D-Indianapolis, said they see the bill as unfair and, to some, unconstitutional.

“The problem is that we are assuming people using food stamps and TANF are doing drugs, and that’s not true,” said Pryor. “It is not fair to stereotype anyone. My second concern is that it affects kids. If you cut assistance to parents, you harm the kids. I hope they don’t introduce the bill and (instead) focus more on preventative measures.”

Bosma brushed off the bill’s critics, saying the argument about constitutionality is a typical complaint.

“If we didn’t take action because one party or another said it’s not constitutional, we wouldn’t do much around here,” said Bosma.

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