State Rep. Jud McMillin (R-Brookville)
(Indianapolis, Ind.) - A local lawmaker’s bill referred to as “Drug Testing for Welfare” has passed another hurdle at the Indiana Statehouse.
State Representative Jud McMillin’s bill has already passed the House. On Wednesday, House Bill 1483 gained the approval of the Senate Health Committee and now moves to the Appropriations Committee.
Wednesday’s vote bodes well for the bill. A similar proposal failed in the Senate committee last year, McMillin (R-Brookville) said.
The proposed legislation requires all recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families to take a written test that determines if they’re likely to abuse drugs. The respondents are then determined to be likely abusers, or not. Half of those identified as potential abusers are then drug tested.
Those who fail the test must enter drug treatment in order to continue receiving their TANF benefits. Those who forego treatment would lose the public assistance until they pass their next drug test.
Some have raised concerns that the program which McMillin claims will save money, could actually cost more. With an estimated price tag of $1.2 million the first year, the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council believes the program isn’t worth the cost.
David Sklar, the IJCRC’s director of government affairs, said when Florida instituted a similar law that only one to two percent of recipients failed the drug test.
He says a couple of years ago, Indiana decided to drug-test people applying for Workforce Development job training assistance.
“Our program here in Indiana, which I believe was started I think in 2011, had very similar results, only about one-percent of individuals failed the drug test," Sklar said.
Sklar says he understands the idea of drug-testing people on assistance is popular – but because of a lack of treatment options it’s setting people up to fail.
"If a bill were written to provide state-level funding for these people who are identified to access a real drug treatment program that’s going to set them up for success, we would be the first people, we would be the first group to stand up and support that legislation," he argues.
McMillin has seen the ugly side of the opposition to his drug testing bill. In a Facebook post made following Wednesday’s committee vote, McMillin detailed an encounter with an unnamed member of the committee.
“So today after getting the drug testing for welfare recipients bill passed, a senator on the committee who was opposed to the bill told me that my my very face ‘offended her.’ She then went on to persoanly (sic) degrade me in public. There is the level of professionalism that is occurring within your government. Not surprising that we have this ridiculous level of partisanship occurring,” McMillin wrote.
Indiana News Service contributed to this story.