Welfare drug testing bill heads to governor’s desk

Drug testing for welfare recipients headed to Gov. Jay Nixon’s desk Tuesday after receiving final approval from the Missouri House.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, makes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families recipients subject to a drug test if there is a “reasonable suspicion” they are using controlled substances. If the recipient tests positive, they could lose their benefits for three years.

Brandom’s original bill only called for a one year loss of benefits after a positive drug test, but the Senate changed that provision along with adding a section requiring a photo ID on a recipient’s Electronic Benefit Transfer card. The House chose to adopt the Senate’s changes rather than send the bill conference with only a few days left in session. Brandom said her bill sends a strong message.

“The purpose of the bill is for us to take positive stands to prevent the illegal use of controlled substances,” Brandom said.

Rep. Steve Cookson, R-Fairdealing, also supported the bill and said his vote was about the children.

“For those who really care about children, anything we can do to lessen the ability of their parents to use and abuse drugs,” Cookson said.

The bill could cost the state $1 million and it was a Democrat who opposed the bill based on its cost.

“Most of you don’t know that I am a fiscal conservative … I am wondering about this $1 million price tag,” said Rep. Clem Smith, D-St. Louis County.

Other opponents argued the bill does not solve the problems of drug use in our state.

“Until we solve the underlying problem, you can take away the money all you want, but the parents are still going to find drugs,” said Rep. Genise Montecillo, D-Affton.

The bill passed 113-34, enough votes to override a potential veto from the governor.

– Missouri Digital News