Drug Testing For Welfare Bill Passes Senate In Weaker Form
By Mike Perleberg
(Indianapolis, Ind.) – After three years of trying, a local lawmaker’s proposal to drug test Hoosiers receiving welfare may become law.
State Representative Jud McMillin (R-Brookville) filed the bill this year with the original intent to subject all individuals receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to random drug tests.
The legislation, House Bill 1351, passed the State Senate Tuesday on a 34-14 vote. It now heads to a conference committee of House and Senate lawmakers where differences will be hashed out before potentially being sent to the Governor for his consideration.
While the bill did pass the House on January 28 in a form close to McMillin’s original version, the Senate watered the legislation. Now, SB 1351 only establishes a random testing program for TANF recipients, or adults receiving TANF on behalf of a child, who have a past drug conviction.
Those who test positive for drug use would not immediately lose their benefits. Instead, they would have the option to attend a drug treatment program and continue receiving TANF. Those unwilling to attend treatment would lose their benefits for three months until they pass a subsequent drug test.
Children who receive their TANF through a parent or guardian who loses the privilege would see the benefits transferred to a trustee.
The House version would have also established a nutritional standard for food items purchased with food stamps through the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. That provision was also stripped in the Senate.
Bill passed the Senate despite constitutional concerns voiced by primarily Democrat lawmakers. Opponents said HB 1351 may violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment prohibiting unreasonable searches and seizures. A similar law in Florida was recently ruled unconstitutional on those grounds by a federal judge.