Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 4, 2013

Another View: Welfare drug testing latest insult by state GOP

Expensive, inefficient and insulting?

That seems to be the question the Michigan Republican Party asks before proposing legislation these days - and if the answer is yes, they’re all in.

That’s the only rationale for such winners as the obnoxious abortion regulations passed last year, or the current legislation that would expand the list of “moral conscience” objections available to doctors.

The latest? A bill that would require recipients of public assistance to submit to drug testing.

The idea that drug use is rampant among people receiving public assistance — and that states could save loads of cash by booting drug-abusing welfare recipients off the dole — is a notion much-beloved by the GOP, despite a blinding lack of evidence to support such claims, or any reason to believe such a law would stand.

Michigan legislators approved a similar law in 1999 that required mandatory random drug testing for welfare recipients.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and a U.S. District Court judge issued an injunction on the grounds that the law violates the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure.

The state’s Family Independence Agency and the ACLU settled the case in 2003; the FIA agreed to test only when there’s a “reasonable suspicion” of drug use. ...

It’s unclear why lawmakers think a second go-round in Michigan would be more successful — or more effective.

During the five-week duration of the 1999 program, just 21 of 268 people tested positive, according to the ACLU. (A) Florida program’s four-month run found just 108 individuals, 2.6 percent of applicants or re-applicants for public assistance, positive for drug use. ...

A 2012 Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency report described drug-use rates among recipients of benefits roughly comparable, or even lower, than drug use in the general population. And the cost to implement a drug-testing program could vary, the report found, leading to a range of financial outcomes: If costs were high, but positive results low, the state could spend millions and save only tens of thousands.

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