(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Some Indiana welfare recipients will be required to take a drug test in order to receive their benefits under a bill that passed the House Monday.
House members voted 78-17 to approve House Bill 1483, authored and introduced by State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville). The legislation now heads across the hall to the state Senate.
HB 1483 would require Indiana Family and Social Services to administer a drug testing program for individuals who are receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or receiving the assistance on behalf of a child.
Similar legislation failed in the Senate during the 2012 session after it was amended to include drug testing for state lawmakers.
“I’ve tweaked (the bill) in a way that I think will be a little more palatable for people,” McMillin said.
The Republican from Brookville believes the bill passes the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment against illegal searches and seizures because it would require recipients to consent to a written test. That test would determine whether the applicant is likely to abuse drugs. If so, the person’s name would be placed into a pool from which 50 percent of applicants are randomly selected for a test.
In the event of a positive drug test, the welfare recipient would have to enter into a drug treatment program or lose their TANF benefits. If they opt out and have their welfare pulled, the person can reapply again in three months.
“Another thing it does this year that it wasn’t quite as generous on last year, is it tells people ‘If you come in and test positive, you don’t have to lose your benefits for one day if you are willing to go to treatment,’” McMillin said.
During debate on the House floor, Democrats questioned the cost of such a drug testing program and whether there are enough places for welfare recipients to receive adequate drug treatment.
According to the non-partisan Legislative Services Agency, HB 1483 carries $1.19 million in annual administrative costs; $638,000 in system costs; and $280,000 for drug tests. The analysis does project $1.5 million in savings from TANF benefits not paid out to drug addicts.
McMillin said the bill isn’t punitive; rather it is trying to help people. He called his legislation a good blend of recognizing that when people need help Indiana is willing to give it to them when they are willing to start taking responsibility and moving themselves towards less dependence on government.
"In addition to helping adults kick their dependency, this bill will help make sure that children are raised in drug free environments and given the best chance to grow up to be successful adults. Giving children the best chance to be successful key to breaking the cycle of poverty that we see all too often," he said.