Michigan lawmaker makes new call for mandatory, self-paid drug tests for welfare applicants

Dec 14, 2011

The debate of drug testing for welfare recipients is heating up again.

It’s been tried before: A welfare drug-testing program enacted under former Gov.  John Engler was never implemented because of a challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union.

State Rep. Jeff Farrington (R-Utica) is trying again. He wants to require substance abuse tests for people before they get welfare benefits.

Michigan League for Human Services President Gilda Jacobs says  the law would be discriminatory, unless it applied to everybody getting money from the state.

"So now we're talking governor, state senator, state representatives, their staff, department heads, teachers -- every college student that may get a loan from the state."

Welfare applicants would have to pay for their drug test – even if it came back negative.

If they refused the test, they would automatically be denied assistance.

Jacobs says a welfare drug-testing law in Florida is on hold,  and is the subject of a class-action lawsuit that claims the tests are unreasonable searches.

She says the Florida law cost the state about $178 million dollars a year.