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.

  • bsimon

    If I were in the Legislature, I would offer an amendment that would require applicants for & holders of concealed-carry permits to meet the same requirements.

  • Alison

    Is there any provision requiring treatment? I would think that would be a reasonable step to getting them off assisstance in the first place. What about if there are kids involved? Certainly we wouldn’t want to negatively impact them. How about referal to child protective services for those who fail the test and have kids?

    Getting tough on the drunks and druggies makes a great sound bite, but it doesn’t seem like an attept has been made to address the real world consequences of the legislation.

  • kwatt

    Sen. Reinert, while a fine guy, is a Democrat, not a Republican.

  • JackU

    @Alison: I’m going to take on the role of cynic here and say that those consequences aren’t being considered because in the eyes of the sponsors of such legislation they are unimportant. The purpose of the bill is to make it tougher for poor people to get welfare. The idea being that they’ll load up their stuff and move to some other state where it’s easier to get welfare. Then before you know it you can gut the Human Services budget because Minnesota will no longer have any poor people who need the state to provide those services.

  • Jon

    “MFIP applicants and recipients shall pay for the full cost of each screening.”

    So people who don’t have money, need to get money, in order to enough to survive? Sounds like a plan to cut welfare costs! And let many people starve!

  • Ryan

    Ignoring for a moment the merits of such a proposal, wasn’t the Legislature going to focus on the budget and creating jobs? I could see a small reduction in welfare spending if drug testing was required but is this what they meant–solving the budget gap a couple thousand dollars at a time? Or is there something else going on here instead?

  • Jeff

    I suggest that all employees of a professional sports team (including players, owners, office staff, etc.) must undergo drug and alcohol screening before they receive tax-payer dollars for a new stadium. All employees must pay the full cost of each screening.

    If we are going to deny help to the poor because they are (legally!) consuming alcohol then we should be required to do the same to the rich. Right?

  • Jamie

    Man, I thought I couldn’t be shocked any more at how callous, inhuman, and short-sighted Republicans can be. This is unbelievable. And they want destitute people to pay for the tests, too!

  • Kay smith

    Ryan, that’s what I thought too! All jobs, all the time. Now that guns have taken the stage, can gays and God be far behind?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Ah, those good Christian Republicans are at it again.


  • Xopher

    We could drug test the recipients of corporate welfare, too. What, besides tax dollars, have those Wall Street bankers been taking?

  • MNdrug testing

    Minnesota needs to consider this law. I know someone right now in that state on TANF who spends money that is supposed to go to the children on drugs and has been doing this sort of thing for years on end.

    As a result of this being allowed by this state two of the adult children are now on TANF themselves and are hooked on drugs so because of this permissive attitude the cycle has now just repeated itself and is costing tax payers even more money! Ridiculous!

    Minnesota if you “really” cared about the children you would pass a drug testing law for those who collect TANF and other free monies.

  • John O.

    Oh the outrage! Please. Just have the courage to say “cut welfare.” Forget the facade of drug testing, limiting what can be bought where, when and how, etc. Have the guts to put it up for a vote in the Legislature to learn what your constituents think should be done with welfare in this state.

    With an estimated $6+ billion shortfall, everything needs to be on the table. And it should be the first priority. Instead, our legislative leaders and their minions appear to be more interested in seeing who can get airtime or mentions in blogs instead of trying to solve real larger problems affecting large numbers of real people.

    I’m beginning to think that the early “jobs, jobs, jobs” mantra from the Legislature was actually code for doing everything they can to preserve their own personal “job, job, job.” The people of Minnesota? Let them eat cake.

  • Joanna

    When our legisltators are willing to submit to drug and alcohol tests as a condition for receiving the taxpayers money, then I can takes this kind of proposal seriously. After all, if they are legislating while impaired, we all suffer.

  • Bill

    If something like this passes then Minnesota is dead to me and I will never live there again. Even though it is the finest state in the USA I cant pay taxes that support evil orwellian draconian sub class creating crap. This must be stopped. Anyone who supports it must be voted out no matter what else they stand for. We cannot allow our liberties to erode more then they have

  • Joe S.

    Really? There are people on this board that have a problem with those on welfare being drug-tested? You find it perfectly acceptable for those people that receive money from the government to use that money on drugs? Wow, that is absoulutly unbelievable.

    I am guessing these are the same people who are against having everyone show a government provided (I.E. Free) ID when they vote.