Texas Senate OKs welfare drug tests

AUSTIN, Texas — Some Texas applicants for welfare would be subjected to drug testing and would be permanently cut off if they fail three times under a bill passed Wednesday by the state Senate.

The bill covers Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program applicants. The program, which provides poor people with money for food, clothing, housing and other basic needs, distributes about $90 million to 100,000 Texans annually.

“Taxpayer money should not be used to subsidize someone’s drug habit,” bill sponsor Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, said before the bill sailed through on a 31-0 vote that sent it to the House.

The program already requires adult TANF applicants to sign a pledge not to sell or use drugs. Nelson’s bill would move Texas in line with seven other states that require testing. It would not cover other welfare programs such as food stamps or other state benefit programs.

Not all applicants would be tested, but all would be required to undergo a screening assessment, likely a questionnaire, to determine their risk of drug use. Anyone with a previous felony drug conviction or failed drug test or who is otherwise deemed a high risk for drug use would be tested.

Applicants who test positive would be barred from collecting benefits for 12 months. They could reapply in six months if they complete a substance abuse program. Three failed drug tests would result in a permanent ban.

The bill would still allow the applicants’ children to receive benefits through a designated third party.

“My intent was never to harm the children,” Nelson said.

She said many Texas employers require pre-employment drug testing and said her bill may help people find jobs and get off welfare.

“We’re not only going to help them get off drugs,” Nelson said. “We’re going to help them get a job.”

The Senate is also considering a separate bill that would require similar screening and drug testing for those who apply for unemployment benefits. Gov. Rick Perry has expressed support for both drug testing bills.


The TANF drug testing bill is SB11: http://www.legis.state.tx.us/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=83R&Bill=SB00011

More in Local News

Herald photos of the week

A weekly collection of The Herald’s top images by staff photographers and others.

This tale goes full circle

Courthouse courier’s stolen bicycle is recovered with the help of a marshal.

Pair now face federal charges in pot shop heist

They are being prosecuted on robbery, drugs and weapons violations.

R U testing RUC?

The state has started its pilot of pay-per-mile taxes.

‘They understand us’: Explorer Middle students dig ‘The Club’

The Boys & Girls Club provides a growing on-site, after-school program in south Everett.

Driver hospitalized after I-5 rollover crash near Arlington

A medical problem is believed to have caused the accident.

Lynnwood plans $12M in sewer improvements

The city wants to be ready for an anticipated population boom around the mall and light rail.

Man struck, killed by Everett Transit bus Friday night

He was in the roadway between 75th Street SE and Beverly Boulevard when he was hit, police said.

Mom gives her $25,000 windfall to Marysville high schools

Among the beneficiaries is the drama club, which gets much-needed audio equipment.

Most Read