The Michigan state legislature took aim at the state’s most underprivileged citizens yesterday, passing bills that would require those in need of public assistance to submit to drug testing and to perform unpaid work in their communities.
The bill requiring “community service” for people receiving public assistance passed the state Senate and now must be approved by a committee in the House. The drug testing bill goes straight to the house where it will be voted on directly.
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring folks to have a little skin in the game,” said the “service” bill’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Hune (pictured), a Republican. “All they have to do is a little community service to get their benefits.”
But the bill’s opponents said it made no sense and would only hurt those who needed help the most.
“A lot of people are embarrassed to even be there (asking for benefits), and they have this put on them, “ said Sen. Vincent Gregory, a Democrat who voted against the bill. “It’s this feeling that ‘This is what the public wants.’ But the public doesn’t want to see people beaten down.”
Gregory also said that the bill would burden single mothers who would now have to add child care to their already-stretched budgets while they go out to perform community service.
Gregory proposed an amendment that would have the state cover the costs of child care during the times when mothers perform their required service. But the amendment was voted down.
The drug testing bill may actually violate the constutution, its opponents said.
“Wholesale drug testing without suspicion is simply illegal,” Shelli Weisberg, spokesperson for the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union said. “If we’re going down the road of drug testing for people who receive benefits, then we better start drug testing legislators.”
Democrat Jon Switalski proposed exactly such an amendment, requiring all legislators who, he said are also “on the public dole,” to submit to involuntary drug tests. But that amendment failed as well.
SOURCES: Lansing State Journal, WXYZ Action News, CBS Detroit