Indiana House passes bill to drug test recipients of welfare

Bill passes 78-17 with bipartisan support

INDIANAPOLIS - A bill to drug test some welfare recipients passed the House with bipartisan support Monday, taking Indiana a step closer to drug testing parents receiving federal aid.

The Indiana House of Representatives voted 78-17 for a bill allowing for drug screenings for people receiving temporary assistance for needy families, or TANF, grants. To qualify, a family of three can bring home no more than $288 dollars a week.

As of January, there were more than 13,000 Indiana families in the program. 

"All of us want to help people and specifically want to help children, but we don't help children by allowing them to remain in homes where drug abuse is a problem, and we want to make sure we get them out of those environments," said Rep. Jud McMillin, R-District 68.

The bill states if a person fails the drug test, he or she is given treatment options and a chance to retest. Repeat fails could lead to losing aid.

"The way the statute reads now, if a person tests positive their children might lose assistance, and I think that's a disaster," said Ken Falk, legal director for ACLU of Indiana.

In 2011, Florida passed a law to test people receiving welfare. After four months, a federal district judge deemed it unconstitutional, but not before nearly 3 percent of applicants failed drug tests.

"Our law is substantially different than what those laws in other states are," McMillin said. "We learned from those states' efforts, and I think we've composed a bill here that takes into account the problems that they've had and will be very successful."

Bill sponsors estimate the testing will cost the state about $500,000, not including the cost of running the program. However, supporters also say it will likely save the state at least $1.5 million.

The bill said applicants will be randomly selected for drug tests based on the results of a survey intended to spot people prone to drug use.

Falk said the bill unfairly targets poor people, and the same action would not be tolerated against the wealthy.

"I think it's disturbing when this type of action is taken toward poor people," he said. "If it was taken toward affluent people, I think it wouldn't happen."


Follow Ebone Monet on Twitter: @ebonemonet26

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