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Georgia puts welfare drug tests on hold

Governor waits for Florida's court fight to reach resolution

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ATLANTA — Georgia won’t immediately enforce a new law that would make applicants for welfare pass a drug test before they can receive benefits.

Brian Robinson, the spokesman for Gov. Nathan Deal, said Tuesday that the governor still supports the law but wants to hold off on implementation pending the outcome of legal action against similar legislation in Florida.

Florida’s law took effect in July 2011 but was blocked by a federal judge in October. The ruling has been appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Robinson said the state is trying to avoid wasting taxpayer dollars.

“The governor feels confident that the law in Florida, and therefore in Georgia, will be upheld,” Robinson said. “We plan to move forward on this as soon as we can, but we’re willing to wait a little bit longer on the federal courts. There’s just no need in us hopping in.”

Supporters of the law argued that Georgia should aim to ensure that welfare benefits are used for their intended purpose, not to subsidize drug use and associated criminal activity. They also said the legislation would protect poor children and help addicted adults rebuild their lives.

Democrats blasted the law as an unfair burden on the poor, and opponents vowed early to challenge the law in court after it is put into practice.

Under the law, the state Department of Human Services must create a drug-testing program that would be paid for by welfare applicants unless they receive Medicaid. Applicants who test negative for drugs would be eligible for reimbursement.

Those who fail would be ineligible to receive benefits for a month. A second positive result would result in a three-month ineligibility period, and a third violation would ban someone from applying for a year. Any applicant who fails would not be eligible until they can pass a drug test.

The state would have to provide those who test positive with a list of substance-abuse treatment providers in their area, but it does not have to provide or pay for treatment. Test results cannot be used to prosecute people and must be destroyed in five years.

Deal did not sign an executive order halting the law. Robinson said the governor has discretion on such matters. There is no specific date attached for when the state must create guidelines for the drug testing program.

Courts have struck down similar laws in other states. Random drug testing is banned for constitutional reasons, but the U.S. Supreme Court has defined special exceptions to that rule, such as when a serious public need outweighs a person’s right to privacy. What qualifies as such an exception can be murky.

Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said the issue is not one of policy but of whether the measure is legal.

“During the debate, we talked about the viability of the law based on the Flor­ida case,” said Fort, who opposed the measure and was among the parties vowing legal action against the law. “It would’ve been appropriate for (Deal) at that time to have injected that point, but he’s waiting until after he signed it, until it’s about to be implemented. He chose not to say anything about it.”

Fort said that if the law is enacted, it will still be a waste.

“The question is, if you’re poor and need assistance, do you forfeit your constitutional rights or not?” he said. “I think that’s dangerous. If it’s poor people today, it could be other people tomorrow.”

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KSL
120882
Points
KSL 07/03/12 - 10:27 pm
7
2
Since 1968 I have been

Since 1968 I have been hearing we can't punish parents without hurting the children. We have been held hostage by the idea of protecting the children for more than 2 generations. And the situation is must worse now.

fatboyhog
1800
Points
fatboyhog 07/04/12 - 06:49 am
5
1
If they have money for drugs,

If they have money for drugs, they have money for food. I love the notion that if we "punish the parents", the children will suffer. If the parent(s) are doing drugs, then the children are already suffering.

overburdened_taxpayer
116
Points
overburdened_taxpayer 07/04/12 - 07:25 am
5
0
Give up 4th Amendment Rights?

How is this giving up 4th Amendment right? Because it is the government requiring it? The government requires that I take random drug tests to keep my government job. Isn't the paycheck these recipients get considered their government job? Hell, even our military people have to take drug tests.

If I were taking drugs and they were going to fire me wouldn't that hurt my children? They should let me keep my job for the sake of the children. I agree whole-heartedly with fatboyhog - the children are already suffering if the parents are taking drugs. Here's a novel idea - if they are on welfare and taking drugs, take the kids away from that destructive environment. When the parent is clean and gone through good parenting classes then give them back.

TParty
6003
Points
TParty 07/04/12 - 09:26 am
6
2
I know the purpose is to save

I know the purpose is to save money- but just look at how much this is costing Florida. It cost a lot to the state, meaning the citizens.

dichotomy
30365
Points
dichotomy 07/04/12 - 09:48 am
7
2
It's an upside down world.

It's an upside down world. Welfare people are free to never work, do drugs, break laws, and produce more welfare recipients with no consequences. Apparently some view those things as "rights".

We however must pass drug tests and not have criminal records in order to work and pay for the welfare recipients. Just whose rights are really being violated here? It's time to flip this thing right side up. If drug testing is good, and legal, for government workers then drug testing is good, and legal, for recipients of unearned taxpayer monies.

scoobynews
3771
Points
scoobynews 07/04/12 - 10:51 am
5
1
I would much rather have my

I would much rather have my hard earned money being used to test and weed out those that don't deserve benefits than to keep giving them my money to use to buy drugs. Folks if you don't think that some of these people don't sell those EBT cards for $$ then you are mistaken.

http://abclocal.go.com/kfsn/story?section=news/national_world&id=8675849

http://southend.patch.com/articles/alleged-south-end-drug-dealer-spurs-f...

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 07/04/12 - 12:10 pm
2
1
dubble post

dubble post

omnomnom
3964
Points
omnomnom 07/04/12 - 12:09 pm
6
1
while we're all wishing for ponies

i would rather the state try to learn a lesson from Florida than have a costly legal battle for no reason. use the money to uphold the laws it passes. not pay lawyers exorbitant fees

OJP
5884
Points
OJP 07/04/12 - 12:22 pm
5
6
This is simply dumb on multiple levels

For starters, it's unconstitutional. Our legislature has wasted time and taxpayer money on this.

It also attacks a broad group of people who are in legitimate need of assistance in an effort to eliminate what is already a very small percentage of abusers. It's not bad enough that you are poor and need help from your fellow citizens to feed your kids - now Georgia wants to invade your privacy to prove you are worthy.

And if we are going to require these citizens to undergo a drug test for their benefits, we need to be honest and apply it to everyone who receives any form of government assistance - which is every single one of us (and not just from indirect benefits such as roads that reduce the cost of consumer goods, but direct benefits like HOPE and tax deductions).

Finally, it's not even going to save us money. The testing will cost more than the savings.

There's no other word for this but dumb.

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 07/04/12 - 01:46 pm
0
0
Sorry but...
Unpublished

How do you know there are few abusers? It's not Unconstitutional. We can just call it a tax. Seems to work for other things these days. It's also voluntary. You do not have to take the drug test if you don't want to. You also don't have to apply for welfare. Myself, I would rather they put a cut off period on any public assistance and teach them a job skill. That's a light at the end of the tunnel. I would never want to punish those that want to better themselves but this constant baby factory lifetime welfare generation has got to end. It's failed so far and it will only get worse!

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 07/04/12 - 02:21 pm
2
2
The government hasn't

The government hasn't required me to submit my urine for drug testing. They said if you want tax payers money you have to submit your urine for drug testing in order to keep your job. I can quit my job at any time and smoke all the dope I want. Therefore I have allowed them to drug test me since 1984. I you want free public assistance you should have to approve the government to screen you for drugs.

Augusta resident
1368
Points
Augusta resident 07/04/12 - 02:24 pm
2
1
By the way, public assistance

By the way, public assistance is not a benefit, it's an abuse of tax payers money. You benefit from getting a job or two or three.

specsta
6073
Points
specsta 07/04/12 - 02:24 pm
4
3
@OJP

Well said, OJP...thanks for your wise insight.

JRC2024
7928
Points
JRC2024 07/04/12 - 02:26 pm
1
4
"There's no other word for

"There's no other word for this but dumb"

"And if we are going to require these citizens to undergo a drug test for ptheir benefits, we need to be honest and apply it to everyone who receives any form of government assistance - which is every single one of us (and not just from indirect benefits such as roads that reduce the cost of consumer goods, but direct benefits like HOPE and tax deductions)."
OJP, we are speaking of drug users who sell the benefits they get for cash to buy more drugs and not the people who actually need the help. your comment is way out of line with those of us who pay our taxes. We pay for the roads and everything government does.

OJP
5884
Points
OJP 07/04/12 - 03:37 pm
2
2
@JRC2024

And exactly how do you intend to separate out the drug users who sell benefits from the rest of the recipients?

And I pay plenty of taxes - not sure how my comment is out of line. If the supporters of this law are consistent, they will advocate drug testing for anyone who receives government benefits, i.e., all of us (I won't hold my breath).

eschamb
151
Points
eschamb 07/04/12 - 05:06 pm
3
0
Drug Testing

I say the drug testing needs to be administered from the top down first. Congress down to the people.

Gage Creed
15618
Points
Gage Creed 07/04/12 - 06:25 pm
3
1
OJP are you opposed to being

OJP are you opposed to being tested for any benefits you receive?

BTW...ever hear of implied consent?

KSL
120882
Points
KSL 07/04/12 - 06:37 pm
2
0
And are you saying I need to

And are you saying I need to be drug tested for my Medicare that I and my employers contributed for decades to so I could have health insurance after retirement?

saywhatagain
409
Points
saywhatagain 07/04/12 - 09:21 pm
0
2
Cowards

Cowards.

OJP
5884
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 01:18 pm
0
0
@Gaga Creed

No, as long as everyone who receives benefits is also required to submit to the test. And, again, that's every one of us.

Yes, but the ruling from Florida indicted any implied consent provision would be unconstitutional.

OJP
5884
Points
OJP 07/06/12 - 01:22 pm
0
0
@KSL

To the extent you receive more than you paid in, yes. However, the two government teets most Americans have shimmied up to are the earned income tax credit and the mortgage interest deduction.

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