Drug test welfare recipients, 2 Ga. lawmakers say



Two Georgia lawmakers want to drug-test welfare recipients, a policy that’s been struck down as unconstitutional in other states.

Rep. Jason Spencer, R-Woodbine, and Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said Thursday they plan to introduce legislation to require people to pass a drug test to qualify for cash welfare.

“Georgia taxpayers have a vested interest in making sure that their hard-earned tax dollars are not being used to subsidize drug addiction,” Spencer said in a release. “In these tough economic times, it is easy to understand that many deserving families need some temporary help until they can bounce back financially — that’s why we have public assistance programs like TANF. This additional eligibility requirement will simply ensure that those funds are used for that intended purpose.”

TANF is Temporary Assis­tance for Needy Families, a federal program that pays cash to the poor for up to five years over their lifetimes. About 50,000 people receive it in Georgia, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Spencer’s bill would not apply to people on food stamps or other public assistance, he said.

Congress authorized states to drug-test welfare recipients in 1996, but such laws have run into legal roadblocks before. A similar law in Michigan was ruled unconstitutional in 2003.

Last week, a judge temporarily halted a new Florida law requiring all welfare recipients to pass drug tests. It might violate privacy laws and the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizures because no evidence that recipients are actually on drugs is required, and the results can be turned over to police, U.S. District Judge Mary Scriven ruled.

Spencer said he has addressed Scriven’s concerns. The state Department of Human Services would use the test results only to determine TANF eligibility and would not release them to law enforcement or another third party, he said.