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Deal OKs bill requiring drug testing for benefits

ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday signed legislation that would require some people applying for welfare in Georgia to pass a drug test before they could get benefits.

The Republican-controlled Legislature passed the Social Responsibility and Accountability Act in the final days of the session, on votes that fell along partisan lines. Sponsors say its intent is to ensure that welfare benefits are used for their intended purpose, and not to subsidize drug use and associated criminal activities, and that it will also protect poor children and help addicted adults rebuild their lives.

Democrats criticized the proposal as an unfair burden on the poor. The law, which takes effect July 1, is expected to face a legal challenge.

Gerry Weber of the Southern Poverty Law Center said the organization is prepared to file a lawsuit over the issue, but not until it is put into practice.

"We are disappointed that the governor signed this and we believe that the state should await the outcome of Florida litigation involving the exact same drug testing scheme," Weber said Monday. "It's going to take a while for them to implement this. That would all have to happen before any lawsuit can be filed."

Courts have struck down similar laws in other states, although supporters in Georgia expressed confidence that the law here could withstand a legal challenge. Random drug testing is prohibited for constitutional reasons. The U.S. Supreme Court has defined special exceptions to that, when a serious public need outweighs a person's right to privacy. But exactly what falls within that exception can get murky.

State Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, said lawmakers worked to make sure the bill would pass muster with the courts and that Georgia's law addresses concerns about privacy and illegal search and seizure raised in other states. Albers said Monday he is not worried about a legal challenge.

"Drug testing is so commonplace ... We worked very closely with folks in other states and attorneys' general offices to address all of the concerns," said Albers, the bill's sponsor in the Senate.

Under the bill, the state Department of Human Services is directed to create a drug-testing program that would be paid for by welfare applicants. Those able to prove they are receiving Medicaid would have to pay a maximum of $17, and those without Medicaid would be responsible for the full cost of the drug test. Applicants who take the drug test at their own expense would be eligible for reimbursement if they test negative.

Applicants who test positive for drug use would be ineligible to receive benefits for a month. A second positive result would result in a three-month ineligibility period, and a third violation would prevent someone from applying for benefits for a year.

Applicants who fail a drug test must pass another one before reapplying.

The Human Services department would be required to provide individuals who test positive with a list of substance-abuse treatment providers in their area, but the agency would not be required to provide or pay for treatment. Applicants who have been denied benefits for a year may reapply after six months if they can prove successful completion of a department-approved, substance-abuse treatment program.

Children under 18, physically or mentally handicapped individuals or those living in nursing or personal care homes are exempt from the drug-testing requirement to receive benefits.

Test results couldn't be used to prosecute people, and test records must be destroyed in five years.

Similar bills requiring testing for people seeking welfare, food stamps, health care or other assistance were proposed in at least two dozen other states. Such laws have already been deemed unconstitutional in Michigan in 2000 and Florida last year.

About a quarter of the 19,200 eligible people who file new welfare applications annually could be tested, according to state budget officials. The state expects about 17 percent a year to fail drug tests, a rate based on a 2007 federal study that examined drug use by people ages 18 to 25.

Albers said he expects the drug-testing mandate could generate at least $103,000 a year for the state, as drug users will either be unwilling to be tested, or kicked off the welfare rolls after failing a drug test.

Comments

Somebody 2 years ago

Long overdue! Of course the dumbocrats would oppose this. It's simple, just don't do drugs. If enforced, half the welfare recipients would lose their welfare check. Course this would mean an increase of robberies and other violent crimes, but they have a cell at the jailhouse reserved for them if they get caught.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years ago

Grab your socks, fellow-Georgians........Eric Holder will be dispatching his agents here as we speak to sue the State of Georgia. That's all he's done since Obama was elected.....sue US States and Citizens.

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MRKIA 2 years ago

HOW CAN THIS BE AN UNFAIR BURDEN TO THE POOR? POOR PEOPLE SHOULD NOT HAVE THE DISPOSABLE INCOME TO PURCHASE DRUGS. WELFARE COLLATERALLY PROVIDES SOME OFTHE DISPOSABLE INCOME USED TO BUY DRUGS, AS WELL AS HAIR WEAVE, FINGERNAILS, BEER, ALCOHOL AND SMARTPHONES.

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waltspecht 2 years ago

Just where will you put these folks if they are busted? How will you feed their children, who shouldn't suffer for actions of their parents? Just some of the questions asked of Florida when they tried to pass just such a program. Sorry to say, we created this welfare nightmare with the best of intentions, only to have some of those benefiting from it learn to abuse it in every way possible. The road to HECK is paved with good intentions.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

Yes, it is paved with good intentions and we are headed there in a handbasket and when we get there we will rub our eyes and say "Hey, where am I and what am I doing in this basket?"

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LuLu 2 years ago

Don't bust them, just deny them benefits. Anyway, that's something the parents, themselves, should consider before breaking the law in the first place! If they can't afford food for their children, then they certainly can't afford drugs, with MY money at that!

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MRKIA 2 years ago

ONE WAY TO END SOME OF THE ABUSE IN THE WELFARE SYSTEM IS TO STOP PUTTING THE MONEY IN YHEUR HANDS AND TRUSTING THAT IT WILL BE USED AS INTENDED. WHY NOT VOUCHERS ASSIGNED TO A SPECFIC PERSON FOR A SPECFIC LIST OF ITEMS? THERE IS A WAY TO DO THIS WITHOUT HARMING OR ENDANGERING ANY MINORS. CHILDREN SUFFER ANYWAY WHEN PARENTS MISUSE THEIR BENEFITS.

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BobCl 2 years ago

Well it's a start, but keep your eyes on DOJ they try to find a way to stop it.

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Black_Falcon 2 years ago

This law will be deemed unconstitutional, and that is the sad part. I say let’s do away with welfare all together. I know some of you who have read my posts in the past (Sister Ruby) think that I am being facetious, but I am not. In my opinion welfare and other social programs have done more to destroy Black families than all illegal drugs combined. Social programs have destroyed the communal spirit that use to dwell in the hearts of Black folk. It has also broken the need for family among Black folk. If you research you will see that the number of unwed mothers in the Black community skyrocketed during the 60s and 70s and has not decreased significantly since then. This correlates to the implementation of welfare, housing projects, etc. Malcolm X warned that social programs would destroy Black folk and he was right.

It is a peculiar thing about entitlements. For years, there were no such things as TANF, welfare, food stamps, etc. Now, people act as though the country cannot survive without them.

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agirl_25 2 years ago

Sure do away with the welfare programs, but what is the solution? Sounds good to say do away with them but everyone has such simplistic solutions to such complex problems.......... So, I am waiting...what is the solution?

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Black_Falcon 2 years ago

The solution to what? These social programs have only been in existence for about 50 years, What did people do prior to that? They relied on themselves for their survival. There is an old African addage "Cume Balla Cume." Loosely translated it means do for self or suffer the consequences. I will be the first to admit there is nothing special about me. I am not an academic scholar. I am not an athlete or entertainer. My father worked at the Rubber Plant in Dawson and my mother was a nurse. We were not a family of significant financial means by any stretch of the imagination. My parents were not politically connected. We did not know the "Right" people. However, having said all of that, I graduated from UGA with a PhD in Clinical Psychology. I now earn a comfortable living for myself and my family. If I can do it, why can't the next man? In this world, people either find a way or make an excuse.

Don't fall for the banana in the tailpipe.

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agirl_25 1 year, 12 months ago

You said do away with welfare..do you mean stop it altogether? Then what? The kids will suffer. Just stop it immediately and there will be no food for the kids at all. I know half the money the sorry parents gets goes to drugs anyway, but at least the kids do get some food from time to time. There has to be an alternate plan..you can't just say get rid of the welfare programs and think that is the solution to the problem. Have you ever spent much time in the homes of the welfare recipients? Have you ever seen the living conditions of some of the people who have kid after kid year after year and still suck the government dry, nursing every benefit they can? Well I have and it isn't pretty, so someone had better come up with a good solution before they just end the welfare programs altogether. Most of the kids on welfare are being raised by grandparents anyway, at least that is what I saw in SW Georgia when I was working, and most of the parents only come around when DFACS is going to make a home visit. I have seen what welfare does to people...it is not good..it is just what people call it...a handout. I have been to homes where there have been dirt floors, with pigs running thru houses, babies crying in adjoining rooms, dirty and hunrgy, being tended by children as young as 9 and 10, while the grandmother was the patient I was seeing could barely raise her head. No running water, no indoor plumbing...I could go on but the stories are too much and some you would not believe...and this is supposed to be a civilized society? You don't just get rid of the programs...You find a way to put them to better use and you enforce it...and as far as your African saying goes....this ain't Africa buddy so save it...if you were in Africa you could go out and kill a chimp and feed your family for a few days and not need welfare. My Daddy ....he was a Yankee from up north who worked hard.....went thru the Depression with 4 kids and made it thru it, got a good government job in the early 40's then they had 3 more kids....and without any welfare.....he had a saying too....he said.......if frogs had wings they wouldn't bump their azz when they hopped........have no idea what that means but it sure made us kids laugh. Oh and PS... I still say it is the potato in the tailpipe..we were 7 kids in our family and a wild bunch and we always used a potato and got into a world of trouble.

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Black_Falcon 1 year, 12 months ago

Wow...you made my point even better than I could.

Thank-you.

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agirl_25 1 year, 12 months ago

PS... AND BEFORE YOU ALL START CALLING ME A BLEEDING HEART KOOL AID SIPPING OBAMA LOVING LIBERAL......YOU ARE WAY OFF BASE..I HAVE SEEN MORE DISGUSTING THINGS IN MY 10 YEARS OF WORKING IN SOWEGA THAN YOU CAN IMAGINE..IT WOULD MAKE YOU SICK TO THINK THAT THOSE KINDS OF LIVING CONDITIONS EXISTED WITHIN 10-15 MILES OF YOUR DOOR....A 9 YEAR OLD HAVING A BABY, NOT KNOWING WHY, ONLY KNOWING "IT HURT DOWN THERE WHEN MY SISTER'S BOYFRIEND DID SOMETHING".......SO KEEP THE SMART MOUTHED COMMENTS TO YOURSELF.

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MRKIA 2 years ago

SADLY BLACK FALCON BLACK FOLK REFUSE ACKNOWLEDGE THE FACT THAT DEMOCRATS VOTED INTO PLACE THE VERY SAME ILLS THAT ARE MANIFESTING THEMSELVES NOW. WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD TAKE TO WEAN THE POPULACE OFF OF THE WELFARE MERRY-GO-ROUND AT THIS STAGE IF IT CAN BE DONE AT ALL? THERE SHOULD BE A SYSTEM LEFT IN PLACE TO SERVE THE TRULY NEEDY AND TO GIVE TEMPORARY AID ON AN EMERGENCY BASIS. AFTER THE LAST WELFARE REFORM IT APPEARS THINGS WENT BACK TO THE ORIGINAL MODEL.

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Black_Falcon 1 year, 12 months ago

I doubt if it can be done. Most politicians (Democrats or Republicans) would be too afraid of the political fall out from such an attempt. I can hear the commercials now; "Congressman X wants poor children to starve. Senator Y wants poor families to die."

Nope. it won't happen. Funny thing about entitlements, once they start, you can't get rid of them. You see what happened over the "so-called" Social Security tax break.

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Justice4Moma 2 years ago

But who will test the ones making this law?I am all for it,the only drugs i use are legal ones from the doctor.But there are people in higher places that do drugs.I say if they run for ANY OFFICE,How many do you think would pass it?

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albanyherald1 1 year, 12 months ago

I do agree that something has to be done, but it needs further thought. Drug testing is a great idea. I don't think these folks should be using our money to not work, and buy drugs. And yes, I know there are those who use it for the purposes it was intended, so we can't condemn all who utilize this help. But...if a mother (or father if there is one around) of 4 doesn't pass the test, they are denied benefits. What about the children? Now, of course, even with the welfare they are already living in deplorable family conditions. Without the welfare, will it be any different? Will the food stamps be cut off also, or just the welfare? In that case, at least there will be food (unless the parents sell the food stamps for drugs, which could very well already be happening). All I am saying is we are moving in the right direction, it just needs further thought.

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Outtahere 1 year, 12 months ago

Social programs are positive and should remain intact to help those that truly need the services provided. With the economy like it is there are many working people that need a little help to make it over the hump. However, the dilemma lies in the abuse of the system. This dilemma can be addressed by placing a cap off for benefits.

Welfare has been a destruction of the family unit by so called "rewarding" mothers for reproducing more children than they can take care of. If every applicant knew that benefits would be provided for NO MORE than two children, they would be less likely to have five and seven. If they would ONLY receive medical and food benefits for TWO children and they were confident that the rules would be enforced, the cycle would slowly stop.

Drug testing is a good idea but it doesn't address the real issue of abuse. Like other posters mentioned, what would happen to the children, who are innocent? What is important is to encourage women NOT TO HAVE CHILDREN THEY CANNOT AFFORD!!! CAP OFFS ARE KEY TO BREAKING THE CYCLE!! If welfare recipients knew that any benefits OVER two children would be deducted from their tax return every year they would NOT continue to have additional children. It's simple really!

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tywebb 1 year, 12 months ago

it sounds to me that NO benefits IS a Cap.

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Hawk59 1 year, 12 months ago

Although I am against welfare, I am also against testing recipients. The sad fact is that the children will suffer most. Have we forgotten the present economic state of this country? So why add more burdens to the poorest of the poor. There is no way someone can make me believe that all welfare recipients are abusing the system. Why not instead try to reverse the flaws that are within the system? I was always taught that it is better to give than to receive anyway, so I don't mind my tax dollars being spent towards welfare as long as I know that maybe one or two kids didn't have to go to bed and wake up hungry. Stop paying attention to the numbers game that our Government is playing at the state, federal, and local levels, and pay more attention to whats going on around you. After doing that magnify it one hundred times or more. As then you will start to see a great need for social services across the board within the whole country, not just Georgia. And why just test welfare recipients? I would like to see politicians, judges, policeman, fireman, lawyers, doctors, teachers, even the ones giving the test, as well as the Governor himself to be tested. You want a drug free society? hell test every citizen and deport them somewhere if they fail. We have to be careful what we wish for, cause slowly our rights are being taken away every day. And my advice to Georgians , stop looking at what is going on and copying the state of Florida to help solve problems. We are clearly in no position to help solve anyone's problems. This law will not help our citizens, or the citizens of Georgia. If we only knew some of the other things that our taxpaying monies are being spent and wasted on. We might not be so willing to throw people receiving welfare benefits under the bus.

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agirl_25 1 year, 12 months ago

No Hawk not all welfare recipients are abusing the system...let me give you some examples. Let's say I am still working and seeing 6 patients a day.......they are all receiving assistance...all are on welfare so to speak. All receive subsidized housing, food stamps, SSI, the works..OK? Now multiply that times 5...6 patients times 5 days a week and we have 30 people on welfare for let's face it, most of my patients are on welfare and have a need for my services. They are mostly poor, black and uneducated with health problems that they do not understand (high blood pressure, diabetes and problems related to diabetes ie. open sores usually on the feet that need tending to on a regualar basis that will turn in to further complication (ie, amputation) if not taken care of now) are you with me? ) So out of these 30 how many do you think are druggies? Probably zero but for the sake of argument I will give you one. OK? Now we must concentrate on finding who the one person is in my patient list who is abusing drugs and how to weed them out and punish them for it....right? Since I know who it is, or have a pretty good idea shall I handle it myself or turn it over to a sorry DFACS worker (BINGO......did I say the magic word? Did I say DFACS? One of the biggest problems I encountered all along the way in dealing with any problem was with the DFACS offices. Any time I had a problem I knew I could NOT count on them for assistance so if you want to start getting a solution to a problem you had better start at all levels and work from there. If you want to get good results you have to have a good working relationship with all the people involved. How many of you can recall the times the Herald or Channel 10 ran stories about hustlers in the DFACS offices scamming the place for money......running scams with an aunt or cousin to cheat money from the government? I can remember a few times. I may not remember names but remember it happening. I want people in there who can help the people who need help...not steal from them. Let's try to get some decent people in there first and make them follow the rules and then scare the hell outta the welfare recipients and then maybe we can get something done. Oh and the cheat I have...kidding..none of my welfare recipients is the druggie..so none of my 30 patients is the cheat...so no, not all welfare recipients are druggies....not being a smarty pants..just trying to make a point....once again.....simplistic solutions to complex problems...it does sound easy but everytime we think we have it solved something comes up and bites us in the rear.

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Amazed2 1 year, 12 months ago

Good start with this bill but they need to expand to "ALL" levels of assistance including Section 8 rent assistance and any and "ALL" Federal Programs. I would hate to effect children but parents should not be on DRUGS and be able to SUCK an income from Taxpayers. I would imagine just like the lunch program mess there are a lot of children on Drug users on Peach Care, both White and Black. Cancel all benefits to all Drug Users and the Children of All Drug Users. IF they care and love their children they will get off drugs, if not the state should take the kids away and find homes for them. Tough Love maybe would send a signal.

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agirl_25 1 year, 12 months ago

Sounds like a plan Amazed, but do you have any idea how hard it is to find homes for the kids that you say the state should take away? Foster homes are difficult to find as it is and DFACS tries to keep siblings together so there is a kink in the plan already. Once upon a time there was a pregnant woman about 45 who had 11 children and had married an older man who was about 70, a totally blind diabetic, a military retiree. Two of her 11 children were his (wink wink) and so was the one she was carrying (wink wink) and one day they got into a fight and she shot and killed her blind diabetic husband. The courts called it self defense because she said he came at her and was going to do bodily harm to her. Everytime I saw him his eyes were whitish and cloudy like severe cataracts. The man was BLIND. The courts said it was self defense and do you know why? Because how were they going to find a foster home for 11 kids? Problem solved. So how are the courts going to find foster homes for all the kids of all these druggies if they had to solve the problem of the blind husband this way? Just askin. It is a vicious circle. No matter how hard we try something always comes up to cause another problem.

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 12 months ago

Hawk,you hit it right on.People are hurting now.I was tought as you.Help others.My Grandad always would tell us he did nt care who it was,no one would ever leave his home hungry.The system does have flaws.Every system does.But why not try and fix the flaws.Yet you can not do that by taking ones rights away.Our rights are being stepped all over.It s time we stand up for our rights,instead of letting other people take them away.I bet Deal never goes hungry,never has to worrie about medical care,or a place to live.And he never will.You see all the elected officals in Albany,in Washington,all over,when there time is up in office,they still get paid money.We all are not so lucky.No matter how much we worked all our lives and had money taken out on us thinking when we get older we will have it to fall back on.It did not work out that way.Most people get put down because of getting Social Securty,SSI,and foodstamps.But who are we to say to let these people,human beings,do without health care,without food,without a place to live.Boy this World has gotten to be a cold hearted place to live.We have a Country that tends to help other Countries all the time.What about US?What about our hungry,our disabled,our elderly?Our older people have payed in for years to be able to live a decent life.And now our Goverment wants to just throw them off a cliff.Where s the compassion?

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tywebb 1 year, 12 months ago

you're right, this world has gotten to be a cold-hearted place. But, as one of the cold-hearted indiviuals, WE have just become totally sick and tired of being used and abused! I don't think there are too many people who are totally heartless to say that someone having a rough go, or down on their luck, shouldn't get some help. BUT when these people make a lifestyle out of it, while being able to afford those 22s, or their beer, cigs, and drugs, or their new iphones, or their $150 jordans, etc., the ones footing the bill just get fed up with seeing it and being taken advantage of.

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agonized 1 year, 12 months ago

My understanding is that the drug testing only applies to those initially applying for welfare, not those already in the system. I think that people would know they are being tested and even if they fail the first time, they'd pass the second time. They won't be criminally prosecuted in any event. It's my understanding that marijuana stays in your system the longest (up to 30 days). Cocaine-based drugs and possibly meth last a lot shorter period of time. As for the argument that the children of the drug-addicted parent will go hungry, don't worry, they still won't be fed properly once benefits are received anyway, since those often get traded for money to buy drugs. Whether a parent is receiving TANF (which is the "new" term for welfare and is supposed to be temporary--until another child is born, and there can be no able-bodied man in the home, the last I knew) or the Peach Card (food stamps), which was supposed to be fraud-proof and is anything but, the children will still go hungry, except for when they eat at school. The parent who is not a drug user anyway will still be eligible for benefits and their children will be fed.

I just see this more as a policy statement, which is a good one. I work for the government and I had to pass a drug test and breathalyzer. I imagine the requirement that the applicant has to pay for the test will be stricken in any event. I just don't see the law as having any practical effect, other than just another hoop to jump through. Don't get me wrong--I don't want to pay for someone's drug habit or their inability to use birth control, which is FREE at the health department.

I understand where you are coming from, Black Falcon. Although I cannot speak from your personal perspective, since I am a white female, it used to be that others would help those who needed it, regardless of race. It was that community spirit. I regret that I didn't live during those times. People are so self-centered nowadays that you don't see that sense of community pride and helping others. Unfortunately, I have to agree that once you offer a governmental benefit, it won't be taken away and certainly not stopped immediately, since there are many people, regardless of race, that depend on it, and the government cannot afford the multitude of lawsuits that would stem from stopping some benefits altogether.

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Justice4Moma 1 year, 11 months ago

If you are gona take the rights away from a few,why not do it for everyone.Just make everyone in the world or who sees a doctor do the drug test.That would take care of alot of drugs on the street,and we would not have to pay so many police officers.Yeah right. I dont mind doing the drug test my self,but i do think it is taking some of my freedom,and my rights away.Gov. is to big,and some are corrupt.I am just saying is you take ones rights away,why not do it to everyone,then you would get all the drugs off the street.

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erudite 1 year, 11 months ago

What happened to the desire for small government?

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