Drug testing public assistance recipients?


State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, has pre-filed a bill that is going to raise quite a few hackles.

I haven’t yet made up my mind on this one. It’s sure to cause me some heartburn.

Applicants seeking help from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families would, under Nelson’s bill, be required to take a drug test to get that help. Is that a bad idea? Think for a moment about that. Employers ask job applicants to take drug tests as a condition for employment; if the applicant fails the test, they don’t get the job. Shouldn’t we compel those seeking public assistance, including unemployment compensation, to do the same thing as those seeking employment in the public or private sector?

Linda Campbell, a thoughtful editorial writer/columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, believes such a law could violate the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the one that protects us against unreasonable search. I usually agree with Campbell’s view, but is it more unreasonable to demand requirements of those seeking public assistance than it is to demand it of job-seekers? I’m having some trouble separating the two circumstances.

On the other hand …

If the state is going to establish this comprehensive drug-testing protocol for those who are out of work or who need other kinds of public, where is it going to find the money? Gov. Rick Perry keeps yammering about making cuts in state programs to ensure we get a balanced budget and he, along with the Republican-dominated Legislature, have done a yeoman’s job of slashing money from such “frills” as public and higher education. Now the GOP wants to spend more money to test poor Texans for drugs?

Therein lies my conflict. Governing is no picnic.