The welfare drug testing bill that would require certain welfare recipients to submit to random drug testing hit a snag on Tuesday, after members left a committee hearing on the bill before a vote could be taken.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Sherman Mack (R-Livingston), would require 20 percent of the adult recipients of aid from the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program to submit to random testing. Those who test positive will be required to seek treatment, in order to continue receiving cash assistance.
Mack shared that the goal of the bill is to encourage people who may have issues with substance abuse to seek treatment. He said: “This bill is not about punishing people. It’s really about deterrence and helping people.”
The first drug test, which costs $7.75, will be paid for by the state. A person who tests positive, however, will shoulder the costs of additional tests, if they want to continue receiving cash assistance. Those who test positive will need to participate in an education and rehab program within 90 days of a positive test result. They can continue to receive cash assistance after passing their next drug test.
There are senators, however, who have concerns about the bill. Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), for instance, expressed concern about the fact that children may suffer if their parents are unable to receive cash assistance: “They could be cut off from sustenance.”
Sen. Gary Smith (D-Norco), on the other hand, shared that it is unlikely that recipients will be able to pass a second drug test within 3 months: “They’re addicts. And addicts don’t get healed, or don’t recover with their first round of treatment.”
The committee will resume Wednesday.