New Georgia law requires welfare applicants to be drug tested

Governor Nathan Deal signed bill into law on Tuesday.

Published 30 April 2014  |  
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Governor Nathan Deal

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed a bill into law on Tuesday requiring some welfare and food stamp applicants and re-applicants to undergo mandatory drug testing.

If state officials have "reasonable suspicion" of drug use by an applicant, they can require a drug screen.

A positive drug test would cause beneficiaries to temporarily lose their assistance, although the legislation allows children of the beneficiary to receive aid from another adult.

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said that the law is intended to keep addicts who do not want to get clean from living off of the state.

"If some... reject treatment and instead choose a lifestyle that renders them unemployable, taxpayers shouldn't have to subsidize that," Robinson told reporters.

However, American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia Executive Director Debbie Seagraves stated that the law is "shameful," and a privacy violation.

"It's a badly flawed bill," she said, according to Reuters. "It will be challenged."

A similar bill was ruled unconstitutional in Florida by a federal judge last year. The judge wrote in his decision that the legislation violated constitutional protections against unreasonable searches.

Also last year, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory vetoed welfare drug testing legislation, stating that the laws were not effective in other states.

The National Conference of State Legislatures states on their website that drug testing of welfare recipients has been proposed since welfare reform began in the late 1990s, and that federal law allows drug testing as part of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, grant.

States requiring some form of drug screening for public assistance include Missouri, Arizona, Oklahoma, Utah, North Carolina, Kansas, Mississippi, Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina.

Governor Deal recently came under fire for signing House Bill 60 into law last week. The legislation allows concealed carry permit-holders to bring their guns into some bars, schools, churches, Georgia airports, and government buildings.

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