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Deal OKs bill requiring drug testing for benefits

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed legislation that would require some people applying for welfare in Georgia to pass a drug test before they could get benefits.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act in the final days of the session, on votes that fell along partisan lines. Sponsors say its intent is to ensure that welfare benefits are used for their intended purpose, and not to subsidize drug use and associated criminal activities, and that it will also protect poor children and help addicted adults rebuild their lives.

Democrats criticized the proposal as an unfair burden on the poor. The law, which takes effect July 1, is expected to face a legal challenge.

Gerry Weber of the Southern Poverty Law Center said the organization is prepared to file a lawsuit over the issue, but not until it is put into practice.

"We are disappointed that the governor signed this and we believe that the state should await the outcome of Florida litigation involving the exact same drug testing scheme," Weber said Monday. "It's going to take a while for them to implement this. That would all have to happen before any lawsuit can be filed."

Courts have struck down similar laws in other states, although supporters in Georgia expressed confidence that the law here could withstand a legal challenge. Random drug testing is prohibited for constitutional reasons. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined special exceptions to that, when a serious public need outweighs a person's right to privacy. But exactly what falls within that exception can get murky.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said lawmakers worked to make sure the bill would pass muster with the courts and that Georgia's law addresses concerns about privacy and illegal search and seizure raised in other states. Albers said Monday he is not worried about a legal challenge.

"Drug testing is so commonplace ... We worked very closely with folks in other states and attorneys' general offices to address all of the concerns," said Albers, the bill's sponsor in the Senate.

Under the bill, the state Department of Human Services is directed to create a drug-testing program that would be paid for by welfare applicants. Those able to prove they are receiving Medicaid would have to pay a maximum of $17, and those without Medicaid would be responsible for the full cost of the drug test. Applicants who take the drug test at their own expense would be eligible for reimbursement if they test negative.

Applicants who test positive for drug use would be ineligible to receive benefits for a month. A second positive result would result in a three-month ineligibility period, and a third violation would prevent someone from applying for benefits for a year.

Applicants who fail a drug test must pass another one before reapplying.

The Human Services department would be required to provide individuals who test positive with a list of substance-abuse treatment providers in their area, but the agency would not be required to provide or pay for treatment. Applicants who have been denied benefits for a year may reapply after six months if they can prove successful completion of a department-approved, substance-abuse treatment program.

Children under 18, physically or mentally handicapped individuals or those living in nursing or personal care homes are exempt from the drug-testing requirement to receive benefits.

Test results couldn't be used to prosecute people, and test records must be destroyed in five years.

Similar bills requiring testing for people seeking welfare, food stamps, health care or other assistance were proposed in at least two dozen other states. Such laws have already been deemed unconstitutional in Michigan in 2000 and Florida last year.

About a quarter of the 19,200 eligible people who file new welfare applications annually could be tested, according to state budget officials. The state expects about 17 percent a year to fail drug tests, a rate based on a 2007 federal study that examined drug use by people ages 18 to 25.

Albers said he expects the drug-testing mandate could generate at least $103,000 a year for the state, as drug users will either be unwilling to be tested, or kicked off the welfare rolls after failing a drug test.

Comments

richtfan 2 years, 8 months ago

only an idiot would be against this.

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Jen1981 2 years, 8 months ago

Only smart moved Deal has made in a long time!

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OrganicGrl 2 years, 8 months ago

@Jen1981 I totally agree with you...Not only smart but the best move he ever made...

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boomer 2 years, 8 months ago

I think everyone should have to pass a drug test to get benefits, job, elected office, sport scholarship.

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toby 2 years, 8 months ago

Burden on the poor? Why? If they are poor, then they can't afford drugs and they will be OK. Gerry Weber must sell drugs to these people. I say take it 1 step further. People would have to work for the money. Why do we give away this money? 1 hour of work = 1 hour of pay. I'm sure some of these people have skills they can share and if they don't want to be committed to a job then they don't work and they don't get paid. And if they have no skills to offer, then they can to manual labor. Only people with true disabilities should get the money without working for it. Work, get paid. Don't work, don't get paid. Do drugs, don't get paid. Why is this so hard to implement?

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Jen1981 2 years, 8 months ago

If they are poor, then they can't afford drugs?? OMG? Are you serious..this will proof a lot are not that poor! Do drugs, don't get benefits and go to work to get paid!

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dentaldawg83 2 years, 8 months ago

and we move a little bit closer to a fascist state. Laws like these always start with actions against folks the majority don't like...THEN...seems to creep into the mainstream and one day we look at each other and ask, "What the heck just happened?" would prefer a reduction in welfare spending straight up and a tighter rein on what could be obtained.

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richtfan 2 years, 8 months ago

surely you must be joking. fascist state? it's fascist to force people to pay "benefits" to people who are able bodied but who choose not to work because they are strung out on drugs or just lazy. I would agree with you that we need a straight up reduction in welfare spending, but the tighter rein you refer to has just been done by Deal. Requiring some standard for living off the public is very fair.

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Mack711 2 years, 8 months ago

My employer requires the employees to take drug test when they are hired and must submit to random drug test upon request. The penalty for non compliance is...... job termination.

Well since people get benefits and abuse the policy they should be terminated just like us who have to work. They take the funds and spend them on drugs then they do not deserve to be parents. Thanks Gov. Deal for doing the right thing for the employed taxpayer.

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Less_is_More 2 years, 8 months ago

While we're on the subject of our beloved lawmakers, we should find out whether our latest state-run program will allow folks to choose where they can get tested, or will they have to go to our beloved lawmakers chosen ones. And, may anyone bid for this work? Who is baiting this field anyway?

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 8 months ago

If only this bill was actually about making sure that taxpayer money doesn't go towards buying drugs, that would be great, but this bill is likely anything but.

As happened in Florida when that state signed and enacted a similar drug-testing bill into law, it's probably not all that unlikely that one of the guys behind the bill has some kind of connection to a drug-testing company with a government contract that stands to benefit substantially after the law goes into effect.

Also, these all of these legislators are lawyers who are lobbied heavily by other lawyers who often intentionally write these bills poorly so as to purposefully draw legal challenges and create more work for their cronies in the legal field often at great public expense to the taxpayers which in the end makes the state LOSE more money than those who wrote the law poorly claim it may actually save.

In addition to testing for welfare benefits for the poor, let's see some testing for some of the shady corporate-connected politicians and, especially, the politically-connected corporations that receive public money for private use otherwise known as "corporate welfare".

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toby 2 years, 8 months ago

"You have a point. Shoot the lawyers first."

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 8 months ago

To be thorough and fair (and Constitutional), everyone receiving unemployment, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, VA benefits, disability insurance, Workman’s Compensation, etc. should also be tested.

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BuzzG 2 years, 8 months ago

Social Security is not welfare. There is a big difference between taking out from a program you have paid into for 40 years and welfare.

Every once and a while I actually like the Republicans. Democrats are upset because welfare recipients and drug addicts are some of their most reliable voters. (along with illegal aliens.)

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 8 months ago

The current ratio of workers paying in to Social Security to those receiving it is roughly three to one. I am in fact helping to support recipients, and thus as a good paying Republican conservative I would like to know that my contributions are not being spent for drugs.

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R 2 years, 8 months ago

Sorry but you’re paying for those currently who ALREADY paid for others themselves, besides most SS recipients are ON drugs!!

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Jan 2 years, 8 months ago

And who do all of you think should pay for this? As has been pointed out, those on welfare rarely can afford drugs. We will be spending millions to save a few hundred. I do not like supporting drug habits either. You will probably have a better savings if we passed a requirement that legislatures had to get regular drug testing - including for alcohol during work sessions. They should forfeit their pay if they can't control their own addictions.

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Mack711 2 years, 8 months ago

The state can pay for the first one then the one getting the benefits must pay for the others to prove they are durg free and for retest at any time. @ BuzzG.we know many that are getting SSDI. This is not the purpose of Social Security. it has been changed by Congress to include the ones who can not work, then to the ones who donot want to work. Including the ones who take drugs over taking care of their family. Yes there are some who do this.

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ACC12_SEC13Booster 2 years, 8 months ago

"You will probably have a better savings if we passed a requirement that legislatures had to get regular drug testing - including for alcohol during work sessions. They should forfeit their pay if they can't control their own addictions."

Speaking of alcohol and addictions, that statement brings to mind the incident back in January where Georgia State Representative Kip Smith of Columbus was arrested for DUI after getting drunk at TWO lobbyist-funded dinners in one night, getting behind the wheel AFTER drinking and running a stoplight in Buckhead right in front of an Atlanta cop, being pulled over and registering a .091 on a breathalyer test and registering a .099 and a .100 on two subsequent breathalyer tests. http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/state-rep-kip-smith-1302153.html

The richest irony of it all is that State Representative Kip Smith, who was arrested for driving under the influence while intoxicated on alcohol supplied at TWO lobbyist-funded dinners in one night, is one of the sponsors of this drug testing bill. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/16/kip-smith-dui-arrest_n_1209365.html

Looks like welfare recipients aren't the only ones who might have problems with "addictions".

The State Legislature looks like a place where this testing should also be taking place as well, but I forgot, Rep. Smith was "tested" at the scene of his arrest for DUI, so it's all good.

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jack 2 years, 8 months ago

The state of Florida reportedly has saved $1.8M with their testing program, mostly through a decline in applicants.

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Cleanupguy 2 years, 8 months ago

Here's the context to that (from the Tampa Tribune): "Net savings to the state: $3,400 to $5,000 annually on one month’s worth of rejected applicants. Over 12 months, the money saved on all rejected applicants would add up to $40,800 to $60,000 for a program that state analysts have predicted will cost $178 million this fiscal year." OK, so they had a 2% failure rate (the tested and rejected candidates) and another 2% that just dropped out - double the savings to $120,000 and compare it to the $178,000,000 cost and it's not quite working the way that you depicted it (or would like to have believed that it was working). Taxpayers lose again!

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R 2 years, 8 months ago

I must agree with JAN on this issue so the Earth just moved…

“pass a requirement that legislatures had to get regular drug testing - including for alcohol during work sessions. They should forfeit their pay if they can't control their own addictions. “

JUST like those of us in the private sector that they pass regulations over, since they WORK for the residents of the state.

(Possible exception, Sen. Balfor, who seems to work for HIMSELF as an independent contractor)

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