NC Senate OKs drug testing requirement for welfare - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

NC Senate OKs drug testing requirement for welfare

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Applicants for North Carolina's cash and worker-training welfare program would have to undergo a drug test to qualify for benefits and pay for it upfront under a bill approved Monday night by the Republican-led state Senate following debate on whether such a get-tough strategy goes too far. 

Senators agreed in a largely party-line 35-15 vote to pass legislation that would demand testing for applicants and recipients for the state's Work First program. 

Those who pass the screening would be reimbursed in future assistance payments; those who fail could reapply in a year after completing a treatment program at their own expense and passing a test. Both parents in a two-parent household would have to take a test. 

The current law already requires local social service agencies to screen for substance abusers using experts or doctors in addiction fields, but no drug testing is required. An applicant or recipient determined to be addicted to alcohol or drugs must complete a substance abuse treatment program and submit to drug testing, however, to continue qualifying for benefits. 

Bill supporters said the state should go a step further and deny benefits to substance abusers so they can't receive monetary assistance from the state that they may use to buy drugs instead of helping their families. Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, said the state should not help pay for what he called an "ugly, dirty habit." 

"Our drug problem that we have in this state is not something that we can just stick our head in the sand and hope it goes away," said Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell. "We are funding our problem. We are handing cash payments to individuals who could not pass a drug test."

But Democratic speakers called the measure mean-spirited. They said it would discourage people from seeking assistance for their families because they can't pay for a drug test, which senators said during debate could cost from less than $50 to $150 per person. 

Work First, which is paid through the federal Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program, provides cash assistance and job training. The state had a Work First caseload of more than 21,000 as of last month. 

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, asserted that the bill is also unconstitutional because applicants are being forced to submit bodily fluids for testing even when there's no suspicion that the person is a drug user. 

Such a bill "only inflames erroneous stereotypes about poor parents and drug abuse," Bryant said, adding that ultimately senators are punishing children from getting needed services. "If we really care about treating drug addiction among the poor, there are constitutional ways to do that," she said. 

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, offered an amendment that in part would have required all members of the General Assembly, the governor, and other members of the Council of State to submit to a drug test before getting sworn in and annually thereafter. But Senate Republicans used a parliamentary rule to avoid a vote on the measure. 

Chief bill sponsor Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, said he'd be willing to submit to a drug test so as long as he wouldn't have to pay for it if he passed the test. But he said Robinson should file a separate bill. 

Two Democrats - Sens. Gene McLaurin of Richmond County and Michael Walters of Robeson County - joined all Republicans in supporting the measure, which now goes to the House for consideration.

  • PoliticsMore>>

  • Week of protests to wrap up at NC Capitol

    Week of protests to wrap up at NC Capitol

    Thursday, August 28 2014 7:13 PM EDT2014-08-28 23:13:38 GMT
    A coalition led by North Carolina's NAACP is wrapping up a week of demonstrations at the state capitol with a rally for voting rights.
    A coalition led by North Carolina's NAACP is wrapping up a week of demonstrations at the state capitol with a rally for voting rights.
  • Tillis to highlight NC teacher raises in TV ad

    Tillis to highlight NC teacher raises in TV ad

    Thursday, August 28 2014 7:11 PM EDT2014-08-28 23:11:43 GMT
    House Speaker Thom Tillis will highlight teacher pay raises approved by the North Carolina legislature this year in a television ad to first air on the eve of his first U.S. Senate debate with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
    House Speaker Thom Tillis will highlight teacher pay raises approved by the North Carolina legislature this year in a television ad to first air on the eve of his first U.S. Senate debate with Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan.
  • Radio ads praise NC lawmakers for fracking votes

    Radio ads praise NC lawmakers for fracking votes

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 9:44 PM EDT2014-08-28 01:44:36 GMT
    The energy industry is thanking several North Carolina lawmakers who supported fracking legislation with radio ads in their districts as elections approach.
    The energy industry is thanking several North Carolina lawmakers who supported fracking legislation with radio ads in their districts as elections approach.
  • Police identify person of interest in deadly Lynchburg shooting

    UPDATE: Police identify person of interest in deadly Lynchburg shooting

    UPDATE: Police identify person of interest in deadly Lynchburg shooting

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 6:38 AM EDT2014-08-27 10:38:12 GMT
    Dominique Moss, 24, has been identified as a person of interest in the Lynchburg shooting. Dominique Moss, 24, has been identified as a person of interest in the Lynchburg shooting.
    Police are investigating a shooting that left one man dead Tuesday night.
    Police are investigating a shooting that left one man dead Tuesday night.
  • Roanoke County police investigating crash, driver charged with DUI

    Roanoke County police investigating crash, driver charged with DUI

    Saturday, August 30 2014 2:05 PM EDT2014-08-30 18:05:30 GMT
    Roanoke County (WSLS) - Roanoke County police are investigating after a car went into a house early Saturday morning.Police say around 4:00 a.m. officers were dispatched to the 5700 block of Castle Rock Road. Police say the driver fled the scene. After locating the registered owner of the vehicle, the driver was later located at his home less than 2 miles away on Cresthill Road.Maurice Rowe III, 21, was arrested and transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for minor inju...
    Roanoke County (WSLS) - Roanoke County police are investigating after a car went into a house early Saturday morning.Police say around 4:00 a.m. officers were dispatched to the 5700 block of Castle Rock Road. Police say the driver fled the scene. After locating the registered owner of the vehicle, the driver was later located at his home less than 2 miles away on Cresthill Road.Maurice Rowe III, 21, was arrested and transported to Roanoke Memorial Hospital, where he was treated for minor inju...
  • Virginia Western Boots2Books race raises money for Veterans

    Virginia Western Boots2Books race raises money for Veterans

    Saturday, August 30 2014 1:53 PM EDT2014-08-30 17:53:18 GMT
    Courtesy: Virginia WesternCourtesy: Virginia Western
    Roanoke (WSLS) - More than 100 people gathered Saturday morning for a 5K race benefiting the Virginia Western Educational Foundation's Veterans Assistance Fund. TheBoots2Books race was hosted by the Virginia Western Armed Forces Student Association and started on the campus of Virginia Western Community College.“Despite the supports and funding available to veterans as they return to college and prepare for the workforce, many still find themselves needing help,” said Matthew Jones, president...
    Roanoke (WSLS) - More than 100 people gathered Saturday morning for a 5K race benefiting the Virginia Western Educational Foundation's Veterans Assistance Fund. TheBoots2Books race was hosted by the Virginia Western Armed Forces Student Association and started on the campus of Virginia Western Community College.“Despite the supports and funding available to veterans as they return to college and prepare for the workforce, many still find themselves needing help,” said Matthew Jones, president...
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.