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

Lynnwood plans $12M in sewer improvements

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

Driver dies in apparent high-speed crash near Snohomish

A passerby found the severely damaged car off Chain Lake Road Saturday night.

Jim and Marcia Hashman during a visit to the Evergreen State Fair in Monroe in 2014. Jim Hashman, who taught music at Mountlake Terrace High School in the 1980s and ’90s, died Jan. 31, after struggling with ALS for several years. (Herald file)
Despite ALS, he lived his life with joy and purpose

Former Mountlake Terrace High School music teacher Jim Hashman died Jan. 31.

Failing embankment on Marine Drive awaiting permanent fix

In the meantime, a 20 mph speed limit is in effect at the spot south of Norman Road.

Pair now face federal charges in pot shop heist

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

Families feel betrayed after wrongful death bill falls short

Rejection of proposed changes in the law angered and shocked parents who lost adult children.

New 116th interchange enters final phase

The Tulalip-led project will ease backups at the I-5 overpass.

Front Porch

EVENTS All about courthouse dogs Learn how dogs are used to provide… Continue reading

Driver hospitalized after I-5 rollover crash near Arlington

A medical problem is believed to have caused the accident.

Most Read