Senate VP Sponsors Bill To Drug Test State Aid Recipients

Feb 20, 2013

Credit Stephen Koranda / KPR/File photo

Supporters say a bill to require some recipients of state benefits to be tested for drug use will help people improve their lives, not punish them.

Senate Vice President Jeff King told the Commerce Committee Wednesday that the proposals in Senate Bill 149 will help those receiving assistance payments or unemployment benefits to receive treatment and find employment.

"This is not a punitive measure," says King, who is  lead sponsor of the bill. "I believe this is a responsible, targeted approach to help families overcome the evils of drug addiction and ensure the proper use of welfare and unemployment benefits."

The requirement would apply to applicants for and participants in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program. Any applicant for or recipient of cash assistance who tests positive for a controlled substance would be required to complete a controlled substances program or risk losing their benefits.

Also, prospective employers would be required to tell the state when a job seeker who's receiving unemployment benefits fails a company drug test or refuses to take one. That would allow the state to cut off the benefits.

Sen. Oletha Foust-Goudeau, a Wichita Democrat, says the language of the bill regarding reasonable suspicion of drug use was broad and subjective, which could result in someone being forced to take a drug test for missing a meeting or their demeanor.  "It allows for profiling of individuals and could cost the  state more money than it's worth."   

The committee took no action on the measure Wednesday. Legislators are required by House and Senate rules to clear most legislation out of committees and move to the full chamber for debate by Feb. 25.