House Passes Welfare Drug Testing Bill

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JEFFERSON CITY - With only a few days left in the legislative session, another bill is on its way to Governor Nixon's desk. The House approved a bill 113 to 34 Tuesday aimed at keeping tax payers' dollars out of drug-users hands. House Bill 73 and 47 would require drug tests for those with welfare benefits, but only if the state has reason to believe they are using illegal drugs. Bill sponsor Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, said the bill voices the opinions of not just her own constituents.

"All over the state [we] are tired of seeing hard-earned tax payer dollars used to subsidize illegal drugs use of any kind," Brandom said.

If recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are tested and fail a urine test, then they will lose their welfare benefits for three years. However, if they take part in a drug treatment program and pass all of their future tests, then they will get their benefits. However, some legislators like Minority House Leader Rep. Mike Talboy D-Kansas City, are not on board with the bill.

"I think it is obviously singling out a segment of society and I think that anytime you start doing that it's going to have negative repercussions," Talboy said.

He also said the state needs to keep this type of testing consistent for all people receiving public funding.

"We don't test ourselves, we won't test anyone else that is drawing from public dollars, but we'll go after poor folks. It's just fundamentally wrong," Talboy said.

But Brandom argues otherwise wanting to keep money out of drug-users hands.

"If you've had any experience with drug-users or drug addicts they don't spend their money on children, they spend it on drugs," Brandom said.

The senate already approved the bill, and added amendments. It changed the penalty for a failed drug test from one to three years without welfare benefits. It also added to the bill that a photo of the welfare recipient be included on the electronic benefit cards.

To read the entire bill click here.