The Memphis Commercial Appeal reports today that Congressman Stephen Fincher has introduced a new version of the welfare drug testing bill called The Welfare Integrity Act of 2013. Following a ruling in a Florida court striking down drug testing of welfare recipients as a violation of the Fourth Amendment, this new bill would ask welfare recipients, as a condition of receiving public assistance, to waive their Fourth Amendment rights in order to agree to random drug testing.
Fincher made the case for The Welfare Integrity Act, saying, "Americans are generous in providing assistance to those in need but they also expect their tax dollars to be used in a responsible manner. Welfare assistance is meant to help those going through hard financial times to buy food and basic living expenses for their families. It's not too much to ask folks to keep clean in order to receive federal assistance."
Civil libertarians disagree. The Commercial appeal story citied Hedy Weinberg, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee, as saying that drug testing of welfare recipients is, “unconstitutional and mean-spirited.”
Cong. Fincher's web site describes the legislation as follows: “The bill requires all new applicants and current recipients to sign a consent waiver to be tested for illegal drugs in order to receive assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. If welfare beneficiaries fail a drug test or are arrested on a drug related offense, they will be unable to receive the benefit and cannot reapply for one year. Further, the legislation requires states that receive funding from the TANF program to certify that there is a program in place to test 20% of applicants and recipients for illegal drugs. States that do not comply would forfeit 10% of their TANF funding.”
Several states including Colorado, South Dakota, Florida and Missouri have state legislators working to pass state legislation requiring welfare recipients to submit to random or periodic drug testing. Sponsors of the bills have stated they heard requests from constituents who are concerned that some welfare recipients are finding way to spent those funds to purchase illegal drugs. Most polls show strong public support for the concept of requiring welfare recipients to submit to drug testing as a condition for receiving public assistance.
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