Press secretary expects gov. will sign welfare drug testing bill

Press secretary expects Haslam will sign welfare drug testing bill


6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A measure to test welfare applicants for drugs passed Tuesday on the final day of the 107th General Assembly. It's been modified multiple times to address questions over its constitutionality.

Now the bill is on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam's desk.

Two years ago, Eileen Perhay was laid off from her job. She had to get on welfare to provide for her children, but she says too many people abuse the system and she hopes the bill becomes law.

"I think it's a good thing. Too many people are taking advantage and then they aren't doing anything and not taking care of their kids," Perhay said.

If the governor signs the bill, it would require welfare applicants to undergo a screening process. If suspicion is raised, then the applicant would be drug tested. When parents fail a drug test, their children will still receive benefits from an outside provider.

The sponsors, Rep. Julia Hurley (R-Lenoir City) and Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) are confident the governor will sign the bill into law.

"I'd say he will likely sign it. It's a common sense bill," Sen. Campfield said. "Most people realize this is something that should be done and should have been done a long time ago."

Many constituents agree. Ron Blankenship believes some people misuse their welfare assistance. "I think a lot of people sell their food stamps and things like that. I just think it's a good law to pass," he said.

Others like Dawn Brandt don't agree. "To drug test people, I think that's taking away their freedom because people are going to get high. It's not going to stop them by doing that. They can clean up a couple weeks, then continue to get high," she said.

The governor's press secretary says he anticipates the governor will sign the bill. If that happens, it will be implemented statewide in two years.

If an applicant fails the drug test, they'll be referred to a rehab program and be drug tested again in six months.

6 News was told the screening program includes a psychological evaluation, and the rules will be finalized over the summer.

The cost estimate included with the final version of the bill shows the savings will be more than the cost of implementing the tests. The money saved would go back into the state's welfare system.

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