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Despite federal rulings, Ga. Republican wants drug testing for people on welfare

State Rep. Greg Morris (left) from Vidalia is proposing legislation in the Georgia General Assembly that welfare recipients be drug tested
State Rep. Greg Morris (left) from Vidalia is proposing legislation in the Georgia General Assembly that welfare recipients be drug tested
Southeastern Tech

On Thursday, January 23, Central Georgia's largest television station-- Macon's WMAZ-TV-- reported that House District 156 state representative Greg Morris wants to present a bill which would require drug testing for people who qualify for food stamps.

Morris, who resides in Vidalia, has been in the Georgia General Assembly for fifteen years and currents represents a rural, four county district which includes Toombs (Vidalia/Lyons), Appling (Baxley), Jeff Davis (Hazelhurst) and Montgomery (Mt. Vernon) counties.

There have been questions about whether this type of legislation would pass the Constitutional test, but determined Republicans such as Morris wants to push through this legislation in 2014 despite some pushback from the legal community in recent years.

Morris comes from a politically safe and conservative state House district, but Toombs' largest and most progressive areas are in Vidalia and the city of Lyons.

Last year, a federal judge of the United States District Court in Orlando ruled that mandating drug testing of welfare recipients violates their constitutional rights, particularly their protection against unreasonable searches.

In the bill, anyone applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) would have to take the test, and pass, to receive benefits.

Parts of this proposed legislation is similar to what U.S. Rep. Austin Scott has supported in targeting the poor and disadvantaged, especially women and children.

Scott's legislation on the federal level is designed to stigmatize the working poor, the disenfranchised and to give incentive to states to make it more difficult for people on the state level to qualify --especially states with Republican governors such as Georgia to take federal money.

Under Morris' proposed legislation that many see as punitive, applicants would be responsible to cover the cost of the drug test, but if they pass that fee would be reimbursed.

If an applicant fails the drug test, they would be ineligible until they do pass. A second failing test would make someone ineligible for three months, and after that, they would be ineligible for one year.

Children under 18 would not be required to take the test, but their parents would. Kids wouldn't be affected by their parents' ineligibility, but an adult will have to pass the test to receive benefits on the child's behalf.

Federal judges in states such as states as Florida and Michigan have rebuffed legislative efforts by Republicans.

Studies have shown these types of laws targeting certain groups of people are costly and unconstitutional.

The following is quote from a local television station in Florida who interviewed opponents to drug testing.

"Most people's priority is not to buy drugs, and we know this. The general population, it's not a huge percentage of people and this is a population that has even less drug users,"said Robert Prather, Chairman of the Alachua County (Fla.) Democratic Party.

The National Conference of State Legislatures say nine other states have passed a drug testing requirement into law and some 29 others debated enacting it.

Some say it's unfair to require this drug testing without probable cause.

"If we allow the government to search our bodies and our homes without any sort of checks and balances, then that is the most "nightmareish" situation that we can imagine," said Prather.

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