Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin of West Virginia signed a bill on March 23 that will institute a three-year drug testing program that will target some people who apply for welfare.
The drug testing law will task social workers with the responsibility to decide which welfare applicants have the "qualities indicative of substance abuse," The Associated Press reports.
One of those "qualities" will include past drug-related convictions within three years, which means those people could be denied welfare. The new law only covers those who apply for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program.
The state will now ask the federal government to approve its plan to test people for "reasonable suspicion" of drug use.
People who fail the drug test will have to undergo drug treatment and job skills programs, the Charleston Gazette-Mail noted. If recipients fail the drug test a second time, they would lose their welfare payments for one year, and a third failure would mean a permanent ban.
Parents who fail the drug tests will be reported to Child Protective Services, which could investigate the family. The agency has the power to remove children from their families.
“I expect people who live off my tax money to be drug tested,” Republican state Delegate Scott Cadle said earlier in March, after voting for the bill, reported the Charleston Gazette-Mail. “I don’t want them laying around on welfare and drugs.”
“People out there believe this program is being abused and we’re doing nothing about it,” Republican state Delegate John Shott stated. “We need to restore confidence in our government institutions.”
Democratic state Delegate Don Perdue countered, "Here we are puffing out our chests, climbing up on our pedestal, saying we know you guys are the problem, and we’re going to drug test you because we can."
“It sends people to rehab,” Republican state Delegate Patrick Lane insisted. “This is a group that needs help, and it’s right and proper for us to help them.”
“Our state is ate up with drug use,” Republican state Delegate Josh Nelson added. “We’re ate up with it.”
Nelson was one of six Republicans who tried in February 2015 to criminalize state and federal workers who carried out parts of the Affordable Care Act, noted the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
That bill would have also declared the Affordable Care Act to be “invalid” in the state, which would have violated the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.