Welfare recipient drug testing passes state legislature

Legislation to mandate drug testing for people on welfare is on its way to the governor’s desk.

The House signed off on the bill this morning, which was even tougher when it came back from the senate.

“Recipients of welfare benefits, commonly called TANF, would have a drug test if there’s reasonable cause to believe that they may be using drugs illegally,” said Rep. Ellen Brandom (R) of Sikeston

Under the bill, welfare recipients would lose their benefits for three years if they fail a urine test that screens for narcotics.

The House originally said one year, but the Senate pushed it to three. The measure would allow drug users to receive benefits again after a time if they complete a drug treatment program and do not test positive again.

Critics say the legislation will have little deterrent value without treatment…

“And until we solve the underlying problem of drug abuse, you can take the money away all you want, those parents are gonna find a way to get the drugs,” said Rep. Genise Montecillo, (D), of St. Louis

Others question the expense.

“We’re gonna cost the taxpayers of this state a million dollars. And we don’t actually know how much it’s gonna save,” said Rep. Jacob Hummel (D), St. Louis. 

The senate also added a provision to require that the electronic cards used to claim welfare benefits include a photo of the recipient and be renewed every three years.

Lawmakers say that comes from recipients selling their cards to third parties for cash.



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