Proposal to drug test welfare recipients may gain steam in Kansas

 

The Kansas City Star

Just a day after he joined the new leadership team in the Kansas Senate, Republican Jeff King revealed part of its agenda.

Drug testing for welfare recipients.

King, the newly minted Senate vice president, predicted that his chamber -- and the entire Legislature -- would pass a law requiring drug tests for welfare and unemployment benefits.

"It's not that it's being punitive," King told a couple hundred people today at a forum sponsored by the Lathrop & Gage law firm.

"If folks test positive, we need to help them get help and help them get the job skills they need to kick the habit to get a job and keep a job," King said.

"But if they aren't willing to make those changes, we need to make sure they know that not not taking jobs that are available and using drugs and drawing welfare benefits is unacceptable in the state of Kansas," he said.

King did not spell out just would the drug testing policy might look like, but it can't be a far leap to think it might be similar to a bill that a group of lawmakers pushed in this year's legislative session .

That bill would have required welfare recipients to pay for the drug screen up front. If their test turned up negative, the state would have refund the expense in a "timely manner."

A welfare recipient who tested positive for drugs would have had to submit to a drug evaluation and possibly required to attend an education or treatment program.

A second positive test would haved required the recipient to attend an education or treatment program. The person would be terminated from the program for a year.

Someone testing positive a third time would have been cut from the program entirely.

Given the heavy agenda in the 2012 session, the bill did not get much traction but could advance far with a new Legislature now largely controlled by conservative Republicans.

Last year, at least 36 states considered bills that would have required drug testing for welfare recipients, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Three states -- Florida, Arizona and Missouri -- passed laws.

The Missouri law, signed by Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon, allowed a drug test to be ordered if there was reasonable suspicion that a welfare recipient used illegal drugs.

Aid would be cut off for three years if the recipient refused to undergo the test or if the test came back positive. A person could still receive assistance, however, if they enrolled in a rehab program and didn't record a positive test for six months.

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