Home Party-line vote kills State Senate bill requiring welfare drug tests

Party-line vote kills State Senate bill requiring welfare drug tests


state-capitol2A party-line 20-19 vote on Monday killed a Senate bill that would have forced welfare recipients to submit to mandatory drug tests.

The bill, introduced by Republican Sen. Charles Carrico (R-Galax), would have required local social-services departments to screen welfare recipients to determine whether probable cause existed to believe the participant is engaged in the use of illegal substances.

“Drug testing for welfare recipients is demeaning. Why are poor people singled out for testing? Why not legislators, or the CEOs of companies the taxpayers have bailed out? Why is it assumed that the poor, and only the poor, are using drugs? This bill is belittling and demeaning, and I am glad Senate Democrats have rejected it,” said State Sen. Mamie E. Locke (D-Hampton).

Similar legislation in Florida found only $230,000 of savings, noted State Sen. Richard Saslaw (D-Fairfax), “and it would have cost them millions to implement if a federal court hadn’t ruled it unconstitutional.”

The program would cost state taxpayers an estimated $1.3 million annually, according to a fiscal-impact statement attached to similar legislation filed last year.

A 2012 Quinnipiac University poll had 75 percent of Virginians supporting mandatory drug testing of welfare recipients.

“Targeting low-income Virginians for drug tests stigmatizes people with the simple fact that they’re poor. These are mean-spirited and punitive measures that single out struggling Virginians,” said State Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington).



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