Should applicants for government benefits be drug tested? - WSMV Channel 4

Should applicants for government benefits be drug tested?

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Four states already require drug testing to receive government benefits, and dozens of other states, including Tennessee, are considering similar laws.

States are in charge of delivering several different types of government benefits - from unemployment checks to welfare.

Some local lawmakers believe before someone can receive those benefits, they should submit to a drug test.

"I'm in favor of drug testing for people that are on any kind of benefits, whether it's unemployment compensation, workers compensation or whatever. I don't think that we need to be supporting that lifestyle with government money," said Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, (R) Blountville.

A bill has already been filed in Tennessee to drug test people who receive unemployment checks. There's been interest in following several other states' attempts to drug test welfare recipients.

Florida passed a law this year, but a court temporarily blocked it because it might violate the Fourth Amendment.

Before the law was challenged, 7,000 welfare applicants passed the drug tests - 32 failed and 1,600 refused to take it.

For those who passed, the state reimbursed them for the $30 drug testing fee.

Cost concerns are a factor with the possible law.

"I think we need to see what sort of federal leeway we have there, and I haven't gotten that data back on what the feds will let us do and who would implement that and how it would be implemented," Gov. Bill Haslam said.

But it's a move many taxpayers support.

"I think the state should test for several things, not just drugs. Are you gambling? Do you have different addictions that could cause you to misspend the money you are given?" one taxpayer said.

Lawmakers said they hope to address the possible law quickly when they return to session in January.

Tennessee might get more guidance about whether any proposal would pass court scrutiny when a final ruling is expected on Florida's law in a matter of days.

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