Monday, March 07, 2011

The war on the poor continues: Drug tests for public aid

The war on the poor has been opened up on multiple fronts- in Washington, DC, and in state capitols around the country, including Harrisburg. Just at the ACLU, we've been addressing the U.S. House's proposal to cut family planning funding, including to our friends at Planned Parenthood, where many people with lower incomes go for a wide variety of services. And in Harrisburg, we're dealing with Senate Bill 9, mandating government-issued identification for public aid. (There's more on our opposition to this bill here.)

And those are just a few issues that fall within the ACLU's mission. Our friends at allied organizations are dealing with this full on assault in a broader way.

Today we had another reminder of how easy it is for the powerful to go after the vulnerable. Last week a bipartisan group of nine state senators introduced Senate Bill 719. This bill would implement random drug testing for people who receive cash assistance. At least two media outlets are exploring the issue since one of the senators issued a press release.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania's opposition to this bill can be summed up in three words- ineffective, expensive, and unconstitutional.

Ineffective. Statistics from the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism have found that the rate of drug use among public aid recipients is no different from the general population. SB 719 singles out this particular population for extra scrutiny.

Expensive. Drug testing is expensive. It requires financial resources to give the tests, ensure confidentiality, and to run checks to guard against false positives from prescription drugs and other legal substances, like poppy seeds. Numerous states have cited costs as the reason for not starting such a program.

The federal government has a drug testing program for its employees. It found that it spends $77,000 for every one positive drug test because so few people test positive.

Unconstitutional. A drug test is a search, and under the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution, the government cannot conduct this type of broad-based search. The government must have reason to suspect a person is using illegal substances before mandating a drug test.

Michigan is the one state where a law like SB 719 passed. It was struck down by the court of appeals for the reasons cited above.

I'm not a fan of using violent language like "war" or "assault," but the types of initiatives that lawmakers are now pursuing suggest nothing less than an all-out war on the poor. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail in the PA Senate, and SB 719 will go nowhere fast.

Labels: , ,


Anonymous dodie lovett said...

Why is it that lawmakers are never subject to drug the spirit of transparency where is the sign up sheet for judges and legislators and lobbyists? I have a feeling its with the sign up sheet for children of the ruling class volunteering for the military! DRL

12:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have said this before and I will say it again: we should definitely have drug tests for all recipients of government benefits. This includes the CEO's of banks receiving bailout funding, every employee of companies that have contracts with the federal government, and every sitting government employee.

9:17 AM  
Anonymous chat said...

That is very good comment you shared.Thank you so much that for you shared those things with us.Im wishing you to carry on with ur achivments.All the best.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

reverse cell phone lookup

reverse address lookup

cell phone directory

phone number search

free people search

criminal background check

reverse phone lookup

reverse phone lookup

5:58 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

A very nice page. I think the effort has passed, we have to thank you:))
Dis esteti─či

10:46 AM  
Blogger Angel Claudia said...

If your deadline for your Custom Research Paper is near, seek for Research Paper Assignment Help today for all your Research Paper Help Services.

6:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home