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LA lawmakers: no drug testing for welfare recipients

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Senate, on a vote of 20-12, killed a bill that would have required drug testing for welfare recipients of cash assistance. The vote on the proposal, which has been repeatedly shelved over the years, didn't even generate enough support to qualify it for debate.

Sources said the bill would have required at least 20 percent of welfare recipients who receive cash benefits to submit to random drug testing. Those who failed the test would have been required to consent to treatment for the addiction or they would have been cut off from cash benefits, though not health care, housing or food benefits.

Rep. John LaBruzzo, the bill's sponsor, argued that randomly screening welfare recipients would work toward breaking the addiction cycle. The Senate Health and Welfare Committee apparently approved the bill earlier this year over concerns that a court could possibly find that the drug testing it mandates amounts to search and seizure without probable cause.

Critics of the bill said it incorrectly assumed that those on welfare use more drugs than the general population, and that it was potentially racist to assume as much. They also said the bill was unnecessary, since the state of Louisiana already has screening measures in place.

Louisiana is not the only state that has proposed the idea of drug testing for welfare recipients. Florida has made similar attempts. According to sources, a pilot program similar to the one proposed in the Louisiana bill was recently overturned, and Florida legislators recently passed another similar bill, about which an appellate court has yet to decide.

Source: The Republic, "Senate rejects bill to test certain welfare recipients for illegal drug use," Molly Davis, 21 June 2011.

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