The bill to test some welfare recipients, and people who get unemployment, advanced to the full Senate in Kansas on Monday, Feb. 25, 2013.
This bill would allow testing for people that state officials "have reason to believe may be using controlled substances." Senate bill 149 does not define what "reason to believe" means or who would make that determination.
The bill will now go before the whole Senate for a vote. It would then go to the House before it could be signed into law by the Governor. A similar bill failed last year. This year conservative republicans control both houses as well as the Governor's office, so it may have a better chance this year.
The bill applies to people who get cash benefits in a program for needy families. The programs is called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, and is designed to help people who have lost jobs while they seek a new job. Those who fail the test would lose benefits until they completed a drug program and a job skills training program. A second offense would make them ineligible for a year.
Children of people who fail drug tests could get benefits if another parent or grandparent could pass a drug test.
The bill would also apply to unemployment benefits indirectly. If someone is turned down for a job because they failed a drug test, they would have to notify the state, and that person would lose unemployment compensation.
The bill also makes anyone who commits a drug felony ineligible for five years.
The state says it would cost $2.2 million to get the program going in 2014, and that the state would save $1.1 million in subsequent years. This would be the savings if they kick 1,485 people out of the system because they failed a drug test, the Kansas City Star reported.
Proponents say this bill could help get people off drugs and that it is not designed to punish people.
Opponents say it demonizes welfare recipients and singles out women because women who get welfare are often single mothers.
Drug treatment costs about $6,300 and the state will be depending on Medicaid to pick up that cost.
About $42 million was given to 32,000 such Kansas families in 2012.
Several states are considering similar bills.
A similar bill was passed in Florida in 2011. The system tested 4,086 people and 108, or 2.6 percent, failed. Taxpayers spent $118,140, and according to the Associated Press the net loss was $45,780. After three months a federal judge suspended the program until it goes through the courts to determine its constitutionality.