Georgia signs bill to drug-test welfare recipients
Over the years, as the recession came and went, leaving in its wake an untold number relying on government assistance, we have watched from afar the batting around of landmark legislation.
The proposals have been social nightmares for American lawmakers, who feel the wrath of civil liberties groups for even breathing word that such a law may gain traction.
And indeed it seemed for a while that none may ever take hold. Last October, the most aggressive state in pursuing such legislation, Florida, blocked the motion, the presiding judge writing that “the constitutional rights of a class of citizen are at stake.”
But one state north, and progress – or, if you prefer, regression – has been made.
Georgia signed House Bill 861 on Monday, stating that new drug-testing policies will overhaul how the state doles out welfare benefits.
Under the new law, parents who apply for the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will need to pay for, and pass, a drug test that will cost at least $17.
Already, Georgia officials estimate that should prevent some 800 recipients from receiving benefits the state infers would be used to purchase illegal narcotics. This would be, to backers of the law, the best-case scenario.
Though of course opponents are rearing their heads: “We are disappointed the governor (Nathan Deal) signed the bill, given an almost identical law in Florida has been declared unconstitutional,” an attorney for the Southern Center for Human Rights said. A lawsuit against the state has been threatened.
But then it all comes back to the same question we’ve still yet to hear an answer for: what, exactly, is the drawback to ensuring public money isn’t smoked, snorted or shot?
The most glaring consequence of drug-testing welfare recipients is that they’re on the hook for the cost of the test, but even then that’s only $17, and it only has to be completed once. That seems like a fair compromise.
And once more, what is the defence? Opponents of drug-testing laws cry for the privacy of citizens, but not once do they address why, nor do they acknowledge just what a drain wasted welfare dough is on taxpayers.
What it boils down to is this: drug-testing an employee of a company may stretch the boundaries of intrusion, though the rules change when public cash is handed out. A recipient of welfare, an important service to many, is not earning that money in the same way most citizens do. Since it is taxpayer money subsidizing or providing their income, it must face a higher standard.
By Jason Buckland, MSN Money