On Thursday, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) vetoed a bill that would require some welfare applicants to undergo drug testing. Under the bill, North Carolina residents seeking benefits from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program would have had to pay for their own drug tests if the health department found “reasonable suspicion” that the applicant was a drug user.
“This is not a smart way to combat drug abuse,” said McCrory in a statement. “Similar efforts in other states have proved to be too expensive for taxpayers and did little to actually help fight drug addiction. It makes no sense to repeat those mistakes in North Carolina.”
Though McCrory vetoed the bill, he did announce an executive order to implement the section of the bill that requires the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services to check welfare and food stamp applicants’ criminal histories.
“While I support the efforts to ensure that fugitive felons are not on public assistance rolls, and to share information about them with law enforcement, other parts of this bill are unfair, fiscally irresponsible and have potential operational problems,” he said.
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A similar drug testing bill was passed in Florida in 2011, but was struck down as unconstitutional. The bill did not have a “reasonable suspicion” caveat, and ended up costing the state tens of thousands of dollars in a few months. The Florida bill showed a lower rate of drug use among welfare applicants than in the state’s general population, and, unlike the vetoed North Carolina bill, did not protect children in families with substance abuse issues.
McCrory’s veto of the bill, which had the support of about half of the state House’s Democrats and two thirds of the state Senate’s Democrats, represents a departure from North Carolina’s recent slew of conservative legislation packaged by its Republican-controlled legislature, including anti-abortion bills and strict new voting laws.