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Missouri House OKs drug testing for state officeholders

Thursday, February 4, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Missouri's elected officials and many people who receive cash welfare benefits would start undergoing drug screening under legislation given first-round House approval Thursday.

Lawmakers, judges and other state officeholders would receive drug tests before taking office and every two years after that. The officials would pay for the tests, and refusing one would be considered an admission that they used a controlled substance without permission.

Likewise, work-eligible adults who apply and receive cash welfare payments would be tested if the Department of Social Services has a "reasonable suspicion" that the person is using drugs. Those who refuse or test positive would not be eligible for the cash benefits for one year. Their children could keep receiving benefits, but the money would need to be handled by a third party outside the household.

House leaders said Thursday that the drug tests would give taxpayers assurance that their money is not going toward drug use. They said not requiring elected officials to be tested would be hypocritical.

"We're not going to subsidize drug use by welfare beneficiaries," said House Speaker Pro Tem Bryan Pratt, R-Blue Springs.

The drug-testing requirement would apply to applicants to the cash-aid program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. It is designed to help low-income parents learn job skills and care for their children. More than 43,000 families consisting of 112,000 people receive benefits through the assistance program.

A single parent with two children receives $292 per month through the program, but must work or take job training courses for at least 30 hours per week.

Lawmakers approved the drug-testing bill 113-40 on Thursday, and it needs another vote before moving to the Senate. Lawmakers debated the bill for three days, but most of that discussion focused on drug screening for elected officials and the possible penalties for officeholders who fail tests.

Initially, the House legislation would have allowed people who test positive for drugs to complete a treatment program and still keep their welfare benefits. Lawmakers on Thursday removed that provision and lowered the threshold for the evidence needed to require drug tests.

Rep. Scott Dieckhaus said immediately cutting off benefits creates a strong incentive to not use drugs.

"We need to send them a stern message that they need to get off the drugs," said Dieckhaus, R-Washington.

Several Democrats expressed concerns about the process for determining who would be required to take drug tests. Rep. Jeff Roorda, D-Barnhart, called it "constitutionally repugnant" to only require suspicion before having welfare recipients submit to testing.

The legislation gives the Department of Social Services until July 2011 to develop its drug-testing policies. It requires the department to give lawmakers an annual report on the number of drug tests taken and the results of those tests.

Starting in October, Social Services Department employees who do not report suspected drug use or fraud by those seeking benefits would be fired.


Drug testing is HB1377

On the Net:

Legislature: http://www.moga.mo.gov

Department of Social Services: http://www.dss.mo.gov

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Hope these state officeholders have to pay for their own urinalysis tests, not the taxpayers

-- Posted by travellin man on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 10:48 AM

Whats the point? With all of the masking agents out there at the local head shop, health food store, or products available on-line, any dope addict can pass a drug test no matter what their drug of choice may be.

-- Posted by CapeRN on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 11:08 AM

I guess the 8 that voted against it will be first. I like how we always judge by the quality of pee instead of the quality of work accomplished.

-- Posted by grandma73 on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 12:21 PM

lets test everyone every day.what else would keep you fascist hillbillies happy.what a crock,lip service at its best...you cant stop drug use in prison so how the hell do you expect to on the streets.judge people for their work.

-- Posted by Chickenlips on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 12:42 PM

The drugs our lawmakers, judges & state officials are most likely to abuse are prescription drugs which are not typically tested for. Even if we were able to test for all the commonly used prescription drugs this group of individuals would also have the connections & income to obtain valid prescription for their Percocets, Valium, Adderal, Avinza, etc...

-- Posted by Nil on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 12:59 PM

Amen to testing officials and welfare recipients. They can catch most prescription drugs if an expanded panel, lowercut-off limits, and GCMS methodology is used. Having worked in the drug testing industry for many years, most illegal substances can be detected regardless of the so-called masking agents.

I do not think any rational person believes it is facism to test those the taxpayers are supporting.

Our family business has a strict drug testing policy and it is very effective. If implemented properly and fairly without bias, it significantly reduces absenteeism, accidents, and workplace conflicts.

My experience has been that those most opposed to drug testing are most likely substance abusers.

-- Posted by Balmy on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 5:26 PM

the state officeholders test should be random too! But i wonder what is going to happen if a judge or other elected official refuses to be tested, impeach him?

Refusing a test = admission. Innocent until PROVEN guilty, the 5th amendments protection against self incrimination, who does DSS have to prove this reasonable suspicion to? Seems like the state is buying a whole lot of constitutional rights for the $.

-- Posted by everest on Thu, Feb 4, 2010, at 8:41 PM

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