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Indiana House backs drug tests of welfare recipients

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Some welfare recipients would face drug testing in order to keep receiving benefits under a proposal approved Monday by the Indiana House.

The proposal would require all applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to complete a written screening test for possible drug abuse problems. Those identified as possible drug abusers would need to undergo a drug test, and anyone who fails would have to take part in a treatment program and pass later drug tests to continue receiving benefit payments.

Representatives voted 78-17 to approve the bill, sending it to the Senate for consideration.

Some Democrats said they opposed the proposal over worries of too few affordable drug treatment programs, noting some rural areas have none.

"There are no safeguards to help people," said Rep. Vanessa Summers, D-Indianapolis. "We don't know that in the 92 counties of Indiana whether or not there's a treatment plan or treatment program for them."

The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said it was aimed at helping those with drug abuse problems and improving the home environment for children exposed to parents and others who abused drugs.

McMillin said welfare agency workers would provide those who fail the drug tests with information about available treatment programs and provisions of the bill would allow them to still receive benefits as long as they stuck with treatment. He said those failing the drug tests would be responsible for paying treatment costs, but maintained that would be better than spending money from welfare benefits on buying illegal drugs.

The maximum benefit payment from Indiana's TANF program for a family of four is $346 a month, according to state figures. McMillin said federal laws won't allow drug testing for those receiving food stamps and Medicaid.

"They're the people who need the most help," McMillin said. "This is designed to get them help."

The results of the drug test couldn't be used for a criminal investigation, although child welfare authorities would be notified if a parent or guardian fails a test.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency estimates it would cost about $1.2 million to start the testing program, although McMillin said he believed much of that would go for initial expenses and be less in later years.

The Republican-dominated House last week rejected efforts by Democrats to have legislators face drug tests. McMillian said that effort was a distraction and its supporters could offer it as a separate bill.

Rep. David Niezgodski, D-South Bend, said he believed it was hypocritical not to have legislators undergo the testing and questioned spending so much money on the program when millions of dollars have been cut from state programs.

"When did we open up the faucet?" he said. "I think this is bad precedent."

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  • What a Waste!!
    USA Today had the program costing $1.5MM to start plus ongoing expenses. Maximum benefit for a family of four is $346/month. I have seen estimates that this may only save the state $1.19MM in benefits. Florida did this and found 2.6% of the people tested were positive. This is a waste of time and energy.
  • Yes!
    Yes. Please begin with the legislators to be drug tested, and follow up with the CEOs and boards of any company receiving corporate welfare. Get the entire Simon, Irsays and Marsh families urine NOW, as well as Colts and Pacers teams tested. My bet is you will find a lot of illegal narcotics in those bloodlines, but also quite a bit Viagra and Cialis, too.
  • Test Everyone
    Watch out Jim Irsay- the drug test is coming your way. If the poor are tested, so should everyone who receives any money from the gov. Anyone who gets a sweet heart deal from the gov should be tested.
  • Test Away My Friends!!!!
    To reguire me to pass a routine drug screen in order to get employed and exempt yourself is supreme arrogance. This goes for the welfare state and the congress alike! Tests for all or not at all I say! FYI: People without a drug or alcohol problem don;t have to sit around and try convince everyone else they don't have a drug problem. It's only those who are obviosly impared and in trouble who spend time, effort and money to get around a problem that everyone on earth can see!
  • All Created Equal (?)
    I was raised and believe thet you don't ask others to do things your not willing to do yourself. Having said that, If you require my son to take a drug test for an 8.50/hr job at one of the 23 taco bells you own, and you also happen to be a lawmaker of any kind or sheriff or judge.... then you should also be tested. I believe it should be mandatory random. Also, while on the subject of lawmakers, If your not gonna let me smoke anywhere quit selling me the d-a-m-n things in the first place. You have no issues spending the money you earn for things other than its intended purpose (cough) on kids medical ONLY (cough) so be thankful.
  • sensible welfare reform
    I don't have a problem with people who are receiving MY TAX $$ while sitting on their rears watching TV instead of working getting tested. The demo's idea of testing people who work for their $$ is typical. As long as they can give away your and my $$ to people who don't want to work but can afford drugs, alcohol and tobacco on OUR $$ they don't care. The Democrats national motto: Long Live the Entitlement Nation....They keep us elected!
  • GOP garbage
    Leave it up to the GOP to refuse to take a drug test and force it on the poor. What about oil companies having to prove no enviromental harm is caused by their drilling, shipping or use before they receive their billion dollar subsidies? Other than that, this has already been found unconstitutional in another state. And the Gop is fully behind it...what does that tell you about the Republican party? IT is just more proof that the GOp is the Rich white party. Goodbye GOP...your days are numbered

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