Politics

Wisconsin Sues Federal Government, Wants To Allow Drug Tests On Welfare Recipients

| by Nathaly Pesantez

Wisconsin's Attorney General Brad D. Schimel filed a lawsuit against the federal government on Tuesday on behalf of the state regarding drug testing policies for welfare recipients.

The lawsuit seeks "clarification that the State can require certain welfare recipients to undergo drug testing to satisfy the work requirement for food-stamp benefits," reads a statement by the Wisconsin Department of Justice.

Wisconsin's biennial budget bill (2015 Wisconsin Act 55), enacted on July 12, included a law that allowed the Department of Human services to run drug tests on FoodShare recipients--Wisconsin's form of food stamps. But before the Wisconsin Legislature passed the budget bill, the USDA informed Wisconsin's DHS that drug testing was not allowed in the FoodShare program.

"It is Wisconsin's position that FoodShare recipients are 'welfare recipients' and therefore may be tested and sanctioned for the use of controlled substances," said the Wisconsin Department of Justice, referring to a 1996 federal law.

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But federal government officials insist the screening Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program recipients for drugs is not the law.

Gov. Walker hasn't read the law," U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said to The Huffington Post. "It's always a good idea before you start litigation to understand what the law is."

Gov. Walker's office defended the lawsuit in a Tuesday press release.

"We are focused on helping people move from government dependence to independence because we want people to know the dignity that comes from work," reads Walker's statement.

He also addressed an issue often raised with drug screening individuals under welfare--that drug screens in themselves make it harder to receive government assistance.

"Our reforms offer a hand up to those who need it, so they can get back on their feet through drug treatment and access to employment training."

As of May, 16 states have considered legislation that would require public assistance recipients to be screened or tested for drugs, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Sources: Wisconsin Department of Justice, Office of Gov. Scott Walker, The Huffington Post,National Conference of State Legislatures

Photo Credit:Michael Vadon via Wikipedia