Kansas senators approved a bill Thursday that would require many of the state's elected officials and applicants for certain welfare benefits to undergo drug testing.
Applicants for Temporary Assistance to Need Families (or TANF) would undergo testing, as well as the governor, legislators and other state workers. Supporters say the measure is designed to help poor residents kick their addictions, get job training skills, and find employment. Opponents say the bill perpetuates the stereotype that poor people are also drug users.
"These individuals are already humiliated and embarrassed to ask for help," said Sen. Oletha Foust-Goudeau of Wichita.
The bill requires the Department of Children and Family Services to screen TANF applicants for illegal drug use. The state would provide drug treatment and job skills training to those who test positive, using TANF or Medicaid funds if the applicants qualify for the health care services.
The cost of providing drug treatment was estimated at between $2,200 to $6,300 per person, depending on the length of the program.
Opponents of the bill added the requirement that many state officials undergo the same testing. It requires the Department of Administration to establish a drug screening program based on reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use for elected officials.
The amendment also includes mental health positions, the Kansas School for the Blind, Kansas School for the Deaf and state veterans agencies. It also covers all state law enforcement authorized to care weapons, corrections officers, parole officers and heads of state agencies appointed by the governor.
The amendment did not specify how the testing for public employees would be paid for by the state.