Revised Welfare Drug Testing Bill Goes to Governor

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The House on Tuesday passed a bill to implement a suspicion-based drug testing program for welfare recipients in Tennessee.
The measure sponsored by Republican Rep. Julia Hurley, of Lenoir City, passed on a 73-17 vote. The Senate previously passed its version 24-9, meaning the bill now heads for the governor’s consideration.
Rep. Johnnie Turner, of Memphis, was among the Democrats raising concerns about the bill.
“It is degrading, it is demeaning, it is dehumanizing,” she said. “It impacts on a group of people who are at their lowest ebb.”
The legislation would require new welfare applicants to undergo a special screening process. If suspicion is raised after the screening, the applicant would be drug tested.
The final version retreated from the original proposal that would have required blanket testing to qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, program. The state’s attorney general opined that that approach would have been unconstitutional.
The bill would require people who test positive for illegal drugs to enter into a drug treatment program, though they would continue to receive benefits during that time.
A subsequent drug test within six months would determine whether recipients are disqualified. Children would be exempt from testing and the measure would ensure children under age 16 would continue to receive benefits if their parents are disqualified.

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