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Urine Samples Required From Welfare Recipients In Just-Passed TN Bill

by David Badash on April 25, 2012

in Bigotry Watch,Discrimination,Legislation,News,Politics

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Tennessee State Senator Stacey Campfield‘s bill requiring drug testing — presumably, urine tests — for welfare recipients was just passed in the Senate by a 24-9 margin. Applicants for TANF — Temporary Assistance For Needy Families — may have to be drug-tested first if they might be drug users, now or in the future. It’s unclear who would make that determination, or what the basis for that determination might be…

It’s unknown when the Tennessee House will vote on the bill, or if the Governor will sign it.

It seems Campfield, best-known as the sponsor of Tennessee’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill, might fail a reading test just as quickly as he might fail a math test, because Campfield apparently either couldn’t or couldn’t be bothered to read last week’s New York Times article, “No Savings Are Found From Welfare Drug Tests“:

Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.

“Many states are considering following Florida’s example, and the new data from the state shows they shouldn’t,” said Derek Newton, communications director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, which sued the state last year to stop the testing and recently obtained the documents. “Not only is it unconstitutional and an invasion of privacy, but it doesn’t save money, as was proposed.”

This week, Georgia instituted a nearly identical law, with supporters saying it would foster greater personal responsibility and save money. As in Florida, the law is expected to draw a legal challenge. The Southern Center for Human Rights, based in Atlanta, said it expected to file a lawsuit once the law takes effect in the next several months. A number of other states are considering similar bills.

The Florida civil liberties group sued the state last year, arguing that the law constituted an “unreasonable search” by the government, a violation of the Fourth Amendment. In issuing a temporary injunction in October, Judge Mary S. Scriven of Federal District Court scolded lawmakers and said the law “appears likely to be deemed a constitutional infringement.”

From July through October in Florida — the four months when testing took place before Judge Scriven’s order — 2.6 percent of the state’s cash assistance applicants failed the drug test, or 108 of 4,086, according to the figures from the state obtained by the group. The most common reason was marijuana use. An additional 40 people canceled the tests without taking them.

Because the Florida law requires that applicants who pass the test be reimbursed for the cost, an average of $30, the cost to the state was $118,140. This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test, Mr. Newton said.

As a result, the testing cost the government an extra $45,780, he said.

And the testing did not have the effect some predicted. An internal document about Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, caseloads stated that the drug testing policy, at least from July through September, did not lead to fewer cases.

What the Times article neglected to mention is that Florida Governor Rick Scott is a co-founder of — and he or his family likely have a financial interest in — the company hired to do the drug testing. Nifty, huh?

But, we digress.

Back to Tennessee State Senator Stacey “Don’t Say Gay” Campfield’s drug bill.

“If the bills are passed it would mean welfare recipients would have to go through a screening process before being approved for benefits,” a report yesterday in the Examiner states. “If it appears as though an applicant has used drugs in the past or that they would use drugs in the future, then they would have to submit to a drug test before being approved.”

Think about that. Republicans go nuts when they hear the term “hate crime.” They hate the very idea of hate crime legislation so much one lawmaker attempted to get the name of the Matthew Shephard Hate Crimes Bill changed to the Matthew Shephard Thought Crimes Bill.

Yet Campfield thinks he can determine which welfare applicants might use drugs, now or in the future?

Sounds a little like Campfield would want to, say, give a kid a maturity test before entering kindergarten.

Then there’s this from a local Nashville news channel:

One local man has issued a challenge to lawmakers : take the same drug test they are proposing making welfare families submit to.

Alex Friedman spent the day Monday on Capitol Hill challenging every State Senator and every State Representative to take the same test that Tennessee residents applying for welfare might be asked to take.

Back to Tennessee State Senator Stacey “Don’t Say Gay” Campfield, whose math skills are as dull as his reading skills.

Campfield, you’ll remember, is the lawmaker who was kicked out of a local Knoxville, Tennessee restaurant in response to his comments about how HIV/AIDS originated from a gay guy “screwing a monkey.”

Campfield actually had gone on the Michelangelo Signorile radio show and did math in his head and concluded, falsely, that it is “virtually impossible” to contract HIV via heterosexual sex.

Which is the other reason he got kicked out of that Knoxville restaurant.

Now, if only we could come up with a test that would get him kicked out of the Tennessee  Senate.

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{ 8 comments }

Caitlin_A April 25, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Unpopular opinion, but I feel that if I have to pass a drug test to have a job & pay the taxes that go towards welfare, then ALL the people receiving it should have to do the same. Just what I think.

nprpori April 25, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Lets include an amendment that makes this apply to politicians as well.

Anyone want to bet this would be voted down?

I will bet my house that a bill requiring congressmen to go through impromptu drug screening will NEVER pass.

Rsyk April 26, 2012 at 10:20 am

Or a president. If we were to kick politicians out of office for past or current drug use, I'm willing to bet that more than half of them would be out of a job.

argmarg April 25, 2012 at 7:52 pm

Nobody should have to undergo drug testing, with very few exceptions, such as doctors, truckers, bus drivers and congressmen. Unless a person's drug-addled actions might affect the public, then it's nobody's business. And Caitlin, please note, it uses up MORE of your tax dollars to drug test. Why would you want that?

nuclear13 November 20, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Why only some people? Teacherss nurses, lawyers,delivery mem waitreses all deal with the public? I work for a medical compnay I have no patient contect and they do random checks. I have also appled to compnaies and all employment applications mention drug testing. no one wants to hire a drug abuser., Granted there are people whio are out of work that dont want to be but many many welfare recipients get more money to stay home,.They get subsudized housing, food stamps welfare checks and that is more then they would get from a minimum wage job. If they want the money I work hard for then they should be tested and if failed then denied. I have also been behind people on welfare that use food stamps- and yes I believe that many people need them and use them correctly but there are many that fight with the supermarket cashiers as they want to buy cigarettes and items no on the list. I dont but lobster and steak because I cant afford it should someone on food stamps? I know people who quite smoking becasue of the price. It s fine that people get these benefits if they need it but they have to follow rules and live within their means like everyone does.

Caitlin_A April 25, 2012 at 9:15 pm

I have a mother in law who uses nearly all of her social security check to buy illegal pain & nerve pills that she snorts right up her nose. I know how much it tears a family apart & I'd be willing to pay more taxes to make sure they weren't going to buy drugs. I'm of the opinion that every single job should drug test before they hire. I've worked in companies that do & don't drug test & you can really tell a differencein the workers, the quality of work, & the work atmosphere. Having grown up in the meth capitol of the US, I just have a little more hostility towards drugs than most people I guess.

psuedok April 26, 2012 at 2:02 am

I guess I lean right on this as well. I am not comfortable knowing my tax dollars are supplying a habit, however I can live with that over paying for another program that does not return it's ROI. People say "You will be taking food from the mouths of kids", but I think that if parents are addicted to drugs, then most of their kids are not eating anyway.

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Rsyk April 26, 2012 at 10:19 am

I see no problem with this. If you are recieving money from the government, which is actually money from tax payers, you should not be allowed to dictate the terms. Beggars can't be choosers, so to speak. It's the same as when you're say, living in someone else's house. You can't expect to completely dictate the way you live your life when you're living it off the charity of others. (In this case, forced charity.)

Granted, the problem could be side stepped entirely if welfare programs provided goods and services instead of no-strings-attatched money to it's recipients, but that's another issue entirely.

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