Drug Test ing and Pub lic Assist ance
At least seven states have passed legislation regarding drug testing or screening for public assistance applicants or recipients (Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah.) Some apply to all applicants; others include specific language that there is a reason to believe the person is engaging in illegal drug activity or has a substance use disorder; others require a specific screening process. Florida's law was halted by a district judge. In February 2013, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling to halt enforcement of the program. Tennessee's bill requires the department to develop a plan of suspicion-based testing and report its recommendations to the legislature by January 2014. As of March 13, 2013, at least 28 states have proposed legislation requiring some form of drug testing or screening for public assistance recipients in 2013.
History and Overview
States have proposed drug testing of applicants and recipients of public welfare benefits since federal welfare reform in 1996. The federal rules permit drug testing as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant. In recent years, many states have proposed some form of drug testing or screening for applicants. In 2009, over 20 states proposed legislation that would require drug testing as a condition of eligibility for public assistance programs. In 2010 at least 12 states had similar proposals. None of these proposals became law because most of the legislation was focused on “suspicionless” or “random” drug testing, which is at odds with a 2003 Michigan Court of Appeals case. Marchwinski v. Howard ruled that subjecting every welfare applicant in Michigan to a drug test without reason to believe that drugs were being used, was unconstitutional. Three states passed legislation in 2011 and four states have passed legislation in 2012, bringing the total number of states to seven. In 2012, Utah passed...
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