State Rep. claims welfare recipients spend state cash on drugs ‘in many cases’
When Governor Tom Corbett implied that Pennsylvania’s unemployed were a bunch of drugged-out deadbeats last week, he may not have realized at least one member of his camp was ready to put that message into legislation.
After all, the media, the Democrats and just about everyone else called the governor out for his comments (”there are many employers that say we’re looking for people but we can’t find anybody that has passed a drug test”) which he claimed—like his vampiric call for women to “just close your eyes” during forced, government-mandated ultrasounds—were taken out of context.
Meanwhile, his spokespeople noted they didn’t see how metaphorically stomping the ledge-gripped fingers of Pennsylvania’s long-term unemployed was something to cry over.
And in Pennsylvania, where there’s a prominent politician non-apologizing for inappropriate comments about the poor/minorities/women, there’s a less prominent politician willing to go there.
Say hello to Republican Representative Jerry Knowles of Berks and Schuylkill Counties. On May 3rd, just a few days after Corbett’s gaffe, he wrote a co-sponsorship memo outlining his plans to introduce a bill that would randomly force Pennsylvania’s welfare recipients to pee in a cup and take a drug test, because, probably, Fiscal Responsibility.
“While all want to see people with special and genuine needs helped, my constituents are frustrated with what they see as abuse of some state welfare programs, such as access cards,” he writes in his co-sponsorship memo to the Pennsylvania House. “This is money which is, in many cases, being wasted on those who choose not to work and spend state benefits on illegal and illicit drugs.”
In early 2012, Pennsylvania began implementing a drug testing Pilot program in Schuylkill County and eventually moved it to 19 other counties, testing only those who had previously been convicted of drug offenses. As of April 2013, 91 people had been tested. Of them, two people have tested positive for drugs.
In this case, “many” is 2.19 percent.
Pennsylvania State Sen. John Wozniak introduced legislation that would require drug testing for all recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families in April. When that bill came up, State Sen. Shirley Kitchen noted to Newsworks, “Lots of people get taxpayer money and we don’t make them take drug tests.”
In other states, Republicans’ solution in search of a problem has found similar results. When Florida’s law was in place, it found only 5.1 percent tested positive for drugs, while the state itself spent an extra $45,780 to enact the legislation.
The policy, pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, has been challenged and overturned on constitutional grounds before. The ACLU has fought such bills and laws on privacy grounds.
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