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Georgia Delays Use of Drug Tests for Welfare Recipients

State leaders say they will delay implementing the Georgia drug-testing law while a similar measure in Florida is sorted out in federal court.

State leaders say they will delay implementing the Georgia drug-testing law while a similar measure in Florida is sorted out in federal court. File|Patch
State leaders say they will delay implementing the Georgia drug-testing law while a similar measure in Florida is sorted out in federal court. File|Patch
A law that requires Georgia welfare recipients to pass a drug test -- and pay the cost of the test themselves -- went into effect Tuesday, but state officials have delayed enforcing the legislation while the issue is sorted out in federal court.

Gov. Nathan Deal approved and still supports the law, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But Brian Robinson, a spokesman for Deal, told AJC Tuesday the law will not be implemented until a federal appeals court rules in a related Florida case.

“Governor Deal signed the bill because he believes taxpayers who foot the bill for these programs should have some assurance that the recipients are work-ready, and that taxpayers don’t have the responsibility to fund a lifestyle that makes you unemployable,” Robinson told AJC.

Florida’s law requires welfare recipients to “submit to (and pay for) drug testing as a precondition of receiving benefits,” according to The Atlantic.

Georgia’s proposed law in 2012 was very similar to Florida’s, AJC reports. So when Florida received flack for the new law, Georgia revised its version of the bill this year, adding a screening requirement for reasonable suspicion. With the revision in the law, Florida’s case may no longer be relevant to Georgia.

But the delay and wait for Florida’s case is supposed to ensure Georgia will not have to waste money on its own legal fight as lawyers from the Southern Center for Human Rights are gearing up for a legal battle against the law, AJC reports.

“People are already struggling when they go to apply for (welfare),” Linda Lowe, who lobbied against the bill on behalf of Families First, told AJC. “Having to come up with the money for a drug test and not get reimbursed is a special problem. They’re already in desperate straits.”

>> Read the full story on AJC.com.
David Brown July 04, 2014 at 08:47 AM
Charles, your comments and that expletive in the second line clearly violate Patch's Terms of Use. It is possible to state your point of disagreement respectfully.
Mack July 04, 2014 at 09:26 AM
My employer requires me to take a drug test before employment and submit to random drug test at their choice. For this they pay my salary each week. Should anyone at my workplace test positive for any 'illegal' , note the word illegal, drug use their employment is terminated at that time. By asking those on government assistance to submit to a drug test is not out of the question since we, the taxpayer, are basically their employer. Bottom line is if many employers require drug test for us to keep our jobs then the government should also require drug test before passing out our tax money.
Nick M July 04, 2014 at 10:44 AM
Mack, it's a waster of taxpayers money. Some facts about Florida where the law was passed and then stuck down: A U.S. judge has struck down a Florida law requiring drug screening for welfare recipients, saying that it violated the constitutional protection against unreasonable searches. The testing fee of $25 to $45 was to be repaid by the state if the test came back negative, but applicants who tested positive would have been barred from receiving benefits for a year. Judge Mary Scriven permanently halted enforcement of the law in her ruling. She agreed with an earlier court finding that "there is nothing inherent in the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a concrete danger that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use ..." During the time the law was in effect, about 2.6 percent of recipients tested positive for illegal drugs, mostly for marijuana, according to the court documents. The failure rate was well below that of the general population. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found in a 2009 survey that about, 8.7 percent, of the population aged 12 or older had used illicit drugs in the previous month. Generally, the courts have allowed suspicionless drug testing only when public safety is at risk, such as for armed officers or railroad workers who operate heavy equipment. http://www.snopes.com/politics/medical/welfare.asp
erie July 08, 2014 at 03:08 AM
Test the law makers too. smiling

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