published Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

Bill requiring drug tests for welfare benefits heads to Haslam

NASHVILLE — People applying for welfare benefits in Tennessee could be required to undergo drug testing under a bill on its way to Gov. Bill Haslam.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Julia Hurley, R-Lenoir City, passed the House on a 73-17 vote. The Senate earlier passed the bill on a 24-9 vote.

The legislation requires new applicants for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Familie program to undergo a special screening process. If those results raise suspicion, the applicant would have to take a drug test.

Rep. Johnnie Turner, D-Memphis, attacked the measure, calling it “degrading.”

“It is demeaning. It is dehumanizing. It impacts on a group of people who are their lowest ebb,” he said.

The bill has changed from its original form, which called for everyone applying for benefits to be tested. Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper said the blanket approach would have been unconstitutional.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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