Tennessee Lawmaker Files Bill To Require Drug Testing Of Welfare Recipients

According to our news partner, Fox 17, there's a Tennessee lawmaker writing a bill that would amp up the drug testing requirements for welfare recipients.

Rep. Bruce Griffey (R-Paris) has just filed House Bill 88.

Statement from Rep Bruce Griffey:

I would prefer to mandate drug testing of all welfare applicants/recipients across the board, particularly inasmuch as state and federal employees who are paid by taxpayers are subject to random drug screens; however, federal appellate courts currently require a probable cause basis for drug testing of welfare recipients. I do not want to subject the State of Tennessee to the expense of constitutional challenges. I do feel the bill I proposed significantly improves the system

Fox 17 provided a quick overview of bullet points that would be implemented with this new law:

  • Expand drug testing program of SNAP (food stamps) applicants and recipients, in addition to TANF
  • Eliminate a Department Human Services discretion form that asks an applicant if they use illegal drugs. Right now, Tennessee law mandates that drug tests are only performed if the applicant checks that "yes" they do use illegal drugs. Griffey says, "“In my opinion, this is a very flawed system because it is dependent upon the applicant being honest about illegal drug use, grants discretion to DHS and relies upon the results of one of the most unreliable drug screens."
  • Increase the list of drug related questions posed to applicants/recipients from just a couple to 15 questions.
  • Make it a crime to answer drug-related questions falsely
  • Requires law enforcement agencies to report to DHS anyone charged with a drug or theft related crime
  • Requires DHS to drug test any applicant/recipient if they've been charged
  • Use a 7-panel hair folical test rather than a 5-panel urine test to screen welfare recipients for drugs
  • Additionally, to prevent this welfare reform measure from adversely impacting minor children, the bill provides that if a parent or a caretaker relative is deemed ineligible for welfare benefits as a result of the drug testing process, then the dependent child's eligibility for benefits is not affected, and an appropriate protective payee will be designated to receive benefits on behalf of the child who is under sixteen (16) years of age. In the event a dependent child is sixteen (16) years or older, the child shall receive the benefits directly as the payee.

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