JEFFERSON CITY - Requiring suspected drug users applying for welfare to be tested is continuing on the fast track.
The bill was one of the first to be heard in the House Healthcare Transformation Committee when the committee chairman said he planned on moving the bill on the same day it was heard and was moved out of the Rules Committee Monday with no debate with a 7-4 vote along party lines. It will be among the first bills to be heard on the House floor.
Rep. Ellen Brandom, R-Sikeston, the sponsor of the bill, said in the healthcare committee hearing on Jan. 13 that taxpayers don't want to subsidize drug use.
One Democrat who voted against the bill, Rep. Jake Zimmerman of St. Louis County, said the intent was good but too many nonstandard rules attached to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families can lead to a loss in federal funds.
"Not every idea that sounds good at first is necessarily a good idea," Zimmerman said.
Because many private industries require drug testing of their employees, Rep. Larry Wilson, R-Flemington, said, state government should too of those receiving benefits.
Employers requiring drug tests may lessen the need for the state to do their own drug tests, Zimmerman said, if the goal of the welfare program is to get people jobs.
With this session's budget constraints, Rep. Casey Guernsey, R-Bethany, at the healthcare committee hearing, said it's not possible to provide treatment to all who may be referred.
"Dealing with reality, I think it would just be better to kick them off," Guernsey said.
The bill as originally written required referrals to drug treatment programs; it did not required actual treatment. An applicant who tested positive would ineligible for benefits for a year. Under the committee substitute, if someone who tests positive completes a substance abuse program and tests negative within a reasonable period of time, they do not become ineligible.