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(Texas)Senate passes bill to drug-test welfare applicants

After little debate, the Texas Senate on Wednesday voted unanimously to pass a bill that requires applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program to pass a drug test to receive benefits.

“This bill makes sure state resources are not used to support drug habits, while ensuring children continue receiving benefits in a safe environment,” said Sen. Jane Nelson, the author of Senate Bill 11, which now goes to the House.

The protective payee provision that was included in SB 11 drew praise among some members in the upper chamber.It provides for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to designate another person to receive TANF benefits on a child’s behalf if the child’s parent tests positive for drugs.

Nelson told her colleagues that the provision is the reason the bill passed unanimously out of committee, with bipartisan support.

Sen. Eddie Lucio, D-Brownsville, expressed concern that the bill creates a “three strikes, you’re out” model. The first time a person tests positive for drugs, he or she is ineligible for financial assistance for six months; the second positive test triggers a 12-month penalty; the third positive result deems the applicant permanently ineligible for TANF benefits.

Nelson reassured Lucio and Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, that applicants get “plenty of opportunities” to get help. SB 11 allows for applicants who test positive for drugs the second time to reapply for benefits after six months if they have enrolled in or completed a drug treatment program. She highlights that the base bill includes $300 million to increase the availability of such programs for low income Texans.

In the House, state Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, has filed House Bill 1583, which would applicants for unemployment benefits to submit to a drug test. It was set to be heard in committee Wednesday afternoon. Her staff confirms she has withdrawn that bill. A similar measure, House Bill 1281, filed by Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, was heard in committee Wednesday.

Lawmakers have filed nearly a dozen bills this session that would create new standards, including drug testing, for Texans applying for unemployment benefits and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

While lawmakers have filed similar measures in the past, this time around, the effort to require drug testing of those who receive state benefits seem to be gaining steam. Two of the measures will be heard in a House committee on Wednesday, while two measures in the Senate have already passed out of committee.

Senate Bill 11, by state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, would require adults receiving TANF benefits to submit to a drug screening questionnaire and, if necessary, a drug test. That bill has made the most progress so far and is expected to reach the Senate floor for debate soon.

The Nelson measure includes a protective payee provision that allows the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to designate someone else to receive benefits on a child’s behalf if their parent tests positive for drugs. The payee would also be subject to a drug test.

John Colyandro, executive director of the Texas Conservative Coalition, is among the proponents of Nelson’s measure. He said he believes similar language will be added to the House versions.

House Bills 1281 and 1583, which would require applicants for unemployment benefits to submit to drug testing, will be heard Wednesday in the Economic and Small Business Development Committee.

State Sen. Tommy Williams’ SB 21 — which would subject Texans’ eligible for unemployment compensation benefits to a drug test — passed out of that chamber’s Economic Development Committee, but it has not yet been placed on the Senate calendar.

In the last two legislative sessions, five bills related to drug testing for welfare applicants were filed. None made it out of committee.

by Anonymousreply 1504/11/2013

So which politician's relative owns a drug testing company? Florida suspended their drug testing program because there was no benefit. It cost more to administer than the savings in benefits of those who tested positive (2.6%).

In the meantime, the governor's wife, who owns the drug testing company took in $120 for services. Apparently, Rick Scott sold the company to his wife after he was elected.

I guess it's not that conservatives can't learn from their mistakes, it's just that it's not financially feasible to do so.

No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests

MIAMI — Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.

As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.

And the testing did not have the effect some predicted. An internal document about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, caseloads stated that the drug testing policy, at least from July through September, did not lead to fewer cases.

“We saw no dampening effect on the caseload,” the document said.

by Anonymousreply 104/10/2013

When can I expect a bill passed that requires Texas legislaure members and their staff to be randomly drug tested? After all tax dollars are paying their salaries.

by Anonymousreply 204/10/2013

[quote] resulted in no direct savings

Kinda meaningless statement.

by Anonymousreply 304/10/2013

If you get gov't benefits you should not be wasting them on drugs. First avail yourself of the many gov't sponsored drug treatment programs available in Texas and then you can have gov't benefits.

Infallible logic. Except for one thing.

by Anonymousreply 404/10/2013

Republicans are IDIOTS.

by Anonymousreply 504/10/2013

[quote]Kinda meaningless statement.

TRANSLATION: The facts don't support my preconceived notions, so I will just say the whole thing is meaningless.

by Anonymousreply 604/10/2013

Not so, R6. My experience in this line of work proves otherwise, as does my direct experience as a drug user.

My 'preconceived notions' were actually extremely liberal before they were disproved.

What bothers me about the bill is that it will sure as shit encourage crime to pay for drugs.

by Anonymousreply 704/10/2013

R7 The thing is, politicians sell these programs as a way to save money. They in fact dont save money, they wind up costing the taxpayers more than if no testing was done at all. However, you are correct. The likelihood that crime to pay for drugs is a real possibility.

by Anonymousreply 804/10/2013

Are you an accountant, R7?

It's a fiscal issue. They purport that it will somehow save the money that would otherwise go to feed drug habits. The cost of running the program far outweigh any savings from rescinding benefits.

by Anonymousreply 904/10/2013

Waste of money. Yet, the Republicans paint themselves as the party of economic responsibility.

by Anonymousreply 1004/10/2013

The Nazi's like the idea of compiling records of people's blood work. it will come in handy when they desire a specific blood type or organ donor.

by Anonymousreply 1104/10/2013

Follow the money like R1 says.

Who is going to administer these programs and what might be their connections to elected officials?

If it's like other States there is always a connection and it costs more money than it saves.

The biggest recipients of taxpayer funded welfare has somehow morphed into many politicians and their families.

Politicians and their immediate families should lead by example and be the first in line to be tested ensuring grateful taxpayers that we are not paying the salaries,medical bills,parking spaces,haircuts,indexed pensions,secondary housing allowances,"entertainment" perks,gas milage,airline tickets, and the myriad of socialized benefits elected officials and their families receive.

As politicians in Police States love saying,"If you've nothing to hide,why worry..."?

by Anonymousreply 1204/10/2013

What are the Democrats going to do about this?

by Anonymousreply 1304/10/2013

They did this in Florida. The testing program was costing a small fortune and there would only be one or two out of a thousand. To save money, the law was scrapped.

by Anonymousreply 1404/11/2013

The FL law wasn't scrapped, that would require more brains and sense than you'll find in the legislature. It was struck down by the courts.

by Anonymousreply 1504/11/2013
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