Drug testing and welfare: New bill gets it right
Of the 257 pre-filed bills thus far for the 83rd Texas Legislative Session, Senate Bill 11, filed by Republican Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound, Texas has received the most attention from critics and supporters alike.
If passed, the bill would require potential welfare recipients to take a drug test in order to obtain government assistance. Passing would ensure the assistance while failing would disqualify applicants from welfare funds for a year.
Even so, applicants would be allowed to reapply and retest six months later but only after they have completed or joined a substance abuse treatment program. Three failed attempts would end welfare eligibility.
Contrary to popular belief by those who object its passing, the bill is not another way to embarrass the poor or make it more difficult for them to get assistance.
This is simply a way to ensure that recipients of government funds obtained from tax payers such as property-owners, businesses, working college students and others is being used for its intent.
Violation of the Fourth Amendment is cited as the legal reason for the unconstitutionality of SB 11 and those like it. The Fourth Amendment restricts ungrounded searches and seizures of people, houses and papers without probable cause and warrants to do so.
However, it is questionable whether having a person urinate in a cup is really a violation of the Fourth Amendment seeing as that is not their person, but simply a fluid originating from it. Honestly, there should be no objections to such a silly, albeit tedious task since it is in no way harming the person who is tested. Furthermore, a person who does not abuse illegal substances has nothing to worry about.
According to the Center for Public Policy Priorities, of the 115,000 Texans on welfare for 2011, roughly 84 percent were children.
However, it is doubtful that a parent with an illicit drug abuse problem actually used the money they receive from the government to take care of their children.
The bill’s purpose is not to leave defenseless children to fend for themselves. On the contrary, it intends to help them. SB 11 would also require that those parents who fail the test must be reported to Child Protective Services to further assess the situation and take the appropriate action that will best help the children.
Passing this bill will secure that government provided assistance will go to those people who merit it and that assistance will be used for its intended purpose. One additional step to receive the assistance should be nothing to those who truly need it. Furthermore, if it is found that low numbers of cases test positive for drug abuse, it may overturn stereotypical beliefs that welfare recipients are lazy drug abusers and in doing so will help both economically and socially.
Mónica Rojas is a journalism freshman and may be reached at [email protected]