Arkansas Senate Approves Bill To Set Up Welfare Drug-Testing Program

| by Karen Eisenberg
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Senate Bill 600, in a 24-3 vote, was sent to the House by the Arkansas Senate on Monday. According to NWA Online, the bill would require the state Department of Workforce Services to “establish and administer a two-year pilot program of suspicion-based drug screening and testing for each applicant and recipient for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.”

This new bill states that anyone applying for or receiving assistance from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program will be required to take a drug test if their drug screening provides reasonable cause for suspicion.

According to Sen. Blake Johnson, R-Corning, who proposed Bill 600, applicants will be given a written questionnaire, and depending on their responses, drug testing will be performed if the Department “has a reasonable suspicion that the applicant has engaged in drug use.”

Benefits could be cancelled for up to 6 months for those who test positive for drug use or refuse to take a drug test.

The applicant will pay for the drug testing if he or she tests positive and the state will pay if the applicant does not test positive.

The House will make the final decision on whether Bill 600 will go forward. The governor of Arkansas will then have to give his sign of approval for it to be enacted as law.

The American Civil Liberties Union says drug testing welfare recipients is “unconstitutional.”

A statement posted to their website reads: “These bills are introduced by legislators based on the wrong belief that people who receive public assistance use drugs at a higher rate. This kind of drug testing is unconstitutional, scientifically unsound, fiscally irresponsible and one more way the 'war on drugs' is an unfair war on America's most vulnerable populations.”

Sources: NWA Online, Time, New York Times, The American Civil Liberties Union

Photo Credit: benswann.com, Francis Storr/Flickr

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