Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

State News

August 10, 2012

Should TANF recipients be drug tested?

(Continued)

-- —

State welfare agency administrators opposed the bill. During a hearing on it in the last session, an FSSA official said costs for a tywo-year pilot project in a handful of Indiana counties would exceed $500,000 to implement. FSSA officials also warned legal costs would increase if the drug-testing program was challenged in court on constitutional grounds.

State Sen. Tim Lanane, an Anderson Democrat and attorney, said the constitutional and cost challenges would be big hurdles to overcome. He noted that states that have implemented similar drug-testing programs, including Florida, Michigan and Missouri, have found themselves tangled up in legal arguments and lawsuits. Civil rights advocates have argued mandatory drug-testing for welfare recipients violates the Constitution’s Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable search and seizure.

"On its face, it seems simple: Why shouldn't TANF recipients be drug-tested?" Lanane said. "But it's more complicated than that."

Cost of the drug-testing will likely continue to be an issue. In April, as part of the continuing court battle involving Florida's mandatory drug-testing program, Florida officials revealed they spent more than $118,000 on drug testing more than 4,000 TANF recipients and found less than three percent who failed.

But McMillin said those numbers don't tell a larger story. "It doesn't account for the law's deterrent effect," McMillin said. "That study can't take into account the number of people who made a different decision because of the law."

In Indiana, about 17,000 people receive cash payments each month through the TANF program. TANF recipients must either be working, looking for work, or be in school or some kind of job-training. A family of four making about $36,000 a year would be eligible to receive up to $346 in cash benefits a month.

 

Maureen Hayden covers the Statehouse for the CNHI newspapers in Indiana. She can be reached at maureen.hayden@indianamediagroup.com.

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