Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Texas Bill -- Want Gov't Assistance? Pass a Drug Test

A bill on the Texas Senate's intent calender for an upcoming floor vote would mandate drug testing to receive welfare handouts.

Texas is not the first state to attempt to mandate drug testing as part of an application to receive government assistance ("welfare") funding. Florida is among the others to pass similar laws. So was Georgia. In both cases, federal appeals courts determined those state laws unconstitutional under the 4th Amendment to the US Constitution.

The Texas bill, SB 11,  differs only slightly. It does not preclude access to federal funds, only to state managed funds.

The test results are not usable for criminal evidence except in instances where the applicant has previously been convicted of a felony drug crime, is still on probation or parole, and is still subject to mandatory testing anyway.

The bill would make those who fail the screening ineligible for state welfare payouts for one year. This is after a second, confirmation test, is also failed. Anyone denied financial assistance three consecutive times is made permanently ineligible.

Those tested also include parents applying on behalf of minor children.


SECTION 1.01.  Subchapter B, Chapter 31, Human Resources Code, is amended by adding Section 31.0321 to read as follows: 
       Sec. 31.0321.  DRUG SCREENING AND TESTING; ELIGIBILITY.
   (a)  In this section: 
             (1)  "Commission" means the Health and Human Services Commission. 
             (2)  "Controlled substance" has the meaning assigned by Chapter 481, Health and Safety Code. 
   (b)  Except as provided in Subsections (f) and (g), each adult applicant for financial assistance benefits, including an applicant applying solely on behalf of a child, who initially applies for those benefits or who applies for the continuation of those benefits must submit to a controlled substance use screening assessment to establish the applicant's or the child's eligibility for the benefits.  In addition, each minor parent who is the head of household must submit to a controlled substance use screening assessment on the initial application for financial assistance benefits and on any application for the continuation of those benefits to establish the minor's eligibility for the benefits. 
       (c)  A person whose controlled substance use screening assessment conducted under this section indicates good cause to suspect the person of controlled substance use shall submit to a drug test to establish the eligibility of the person and the person's family for financial assistance benefits. 
       (d)  Except as provided in Subsection (e), a person whose drug test conducted under this section indicates the presence in the person's body of a controlled substance not prescribed for the person by a health care practitioner is ineligible for financial assistance benefits for the person and the person's family for a period of 12 months beginning on the first day of the month after the month in which the drug test was administered. 
       (e)  A person who is denied financial assistance benefits because of the results of a drug test conducted under this section may reapply for financial assistance benefits six months after the first day of the month after the month in which the drug test was administered if the person provides proof of the person's successful completion of or current enrollment in a substance abuse treatment program. A person reapplying for financial assistance benefits must submit to a drug test as required by Subsection (f), regardless of whether the person is continuing to receive substance abuse treatment. 
       (f)  A person who is denied financial assistance benefits because of the results of a drug test conducted under this section must submit to a drug test, without first submitting to a controlled substance use screening assessment, at the time of any reapplication for financial assistance benefits and on any application for the continuation of those benefits to establish the eligibility of the person and the person's family for the benefits. 
       (g)  A person who has been convicted of a felony drug offense must submit to a drug test, without first submitting to a controlled substance use screening assessment, at the time of an initial application for financial assistance benefits and on any application for the continuation of those benefits to establish the eligibility of the person's family for the benefits. 
       (h)  If a person is denied eligibility for financial assistance benefits three times because of the results of a drug test conducted under this section, the person and the person's family are permanently ineligible for those benefits.
       (i)  Before denying financial assistance benefits under this section, the commission must: 
             (1)  notify the person who submitted to a drug test of the results of the test and the commission's proposed determination of ineligibility; and 
             (2)  confirm the results of the drug test through a second drug test or other appropriate method. 
       (j)  The commission shall: 
             (1)  use the most efficient and cost-effective controlled substance use screening assessment tool that the commission and the Department of State Health Services can develop based on validated controlled substance use screening assessment tools; and 
             (2)  pay the cost of any controlled substance use screening assessment or drug test administered under this section out of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant funds. 
       (k)  The commission shall report to the Department of Family and Protective Services for use in an investigation conducted under Chapter 261, Family Code, if applicable, a person whose drug test conducted under this section indicates the presence in the person's body of a controlled substance not prescribed for the person by a health care practitioner. 
       (l)  The executive commissioner of the commission shall adopt rules implementing this section.



The bill also addresses other reforms to handout programs including explicitly stating items that EBT funds are restricted from purchasing. Looking at the list, it makes perfect sense. Moneys intended to help feed and house a family should not be used on entertainment, gambling, alcohol, or other vices.

ARTICLE 3. USE OF TANF BENEFITS
 
       SECTION 3.01.  Section 31.0355, Human Resources Code, is amended by adding Subsection (c-1) to read as follows: 
       (c-1)  A retailer who accepts payment for goods and services through the EBT system shall ensure that financial assistance benefits are not used to purchase goods and services the purchase of which is not authorized under this section or rules adopted under this section, including alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, lottery tickets, adult entertainment, firearms, ammunition, and bingo.

The bill also establishes a limit for the duration a person may receive the government assistance to a cumulative 36 months. Such a limit should motivate recipients to become self-sufficient rather than milking hard working tax payers.


ARTICLE 4. TANF TIME LIMITS 
    SECTION 4.02.  Section 31.0065, Human Resources Code, is amended to read as follows: 
       Sec. 31.0065.  TIME-LIMITED BENEFITS. (a)  Subject to the exemptions adopted under Section 31.0067, the Health and Human Services Commission [The department] may provide financial assistance under this chapter only in accordance with the time limits specified by this section. [The department by rule may provide for exceptions to these time limits if severe personal hardship or community economic factors prevent the recipient from obtaining employment or if the state is unable to provide support services.
       (b)  The Health and Human Services Commission [department] shall limit financial assistance provided to a person and the person's family to a cumulative total of 36 months of financial assistance benefits and 12 months of transitional benefits [and transitional benefits in accordance with the following schedule:

These reforms are a start towards prosperity. They place individual consequences on individual's choices thereby increasing individual responsibility and accountability. In addition, they maintain granting assistance to those who truly need it. If you can afford that $40 for weed, you can afford to spend the money on food instead.