Drug testing for welfare recipients?

Old bills are again making new appearances at the Legislature.

Republicans in the Minnesota House today filed a bill requiring recipients of MFIP — that’s the welfare system for low-income residents — to prove they’re not on drugs or alcohol.

It’s a dead-on-arrival bill from the past that has a chance of passage this year. Sen. Amy Koch, who now is the Senate Majority Leader in Minnesota, filed a similar bill in 2008 that went nowhere.

Michigan was the first state to pass a similar law, but it failed a constitutional test. It was deemed an unreasonable search.

Here’s the bill:

Eligibility; drug screening. (a) To be eligible for MFIP, an applicant must undergo drug and alcohol screening, to the extent practicable, following the established procedures and reliability safeguards provided for screening in sections 181.951, 181.953, and 181.954. A county agency may require a recipient of benefits to undergo random drug screening. An applicant must provide evidence of a negative test result to the appropriate county agency prior to being approved for MFIP benefits and prior to receiving an extension of benefits under section 256J.425.

(b) A laboratory must report to the appropriate county agency any positive test

result returned on an applicant or recipient of MFIP benefits. Upon receipt of a positive test result, a county agency must deny or discontinue benefits until the applicant or recipient demonstrates a pattern of negative test results that satisfies the agency that the

person is no longer a drug user.

(c) MFIP applicants and recipients shall pay for the full cost of each screening.

The alcohol screening is a different twist. While it’s illegal to use drugs, alcohol is a legal substance. Should that make a difference?

Other states have considered a more broad requirement. In West Virginia, unemployment benefits and money for WIC — women, infants, and children — would also similarly require a drug test first.

Sen. Orrin Hatch has proposed a federal drug-testing requirement.

In other news, a Republican Democratic lawmaker has filed a bill to repeal the ban on alcohol sales on Sunday.