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Bill proposes welfare recipients be drug tested

By Ian Cull, KXLY4 Multimedia Journalist, ianc@kxly.com
Published On: Jan 29 2013 09:01:43 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 29 2013 09:03:40 PM CST

SPOKANE, Wash. -

A bill in the Washington state legislature could soon be up for a vote that could mean that people on welfare might end up being tested for drug use before they receive assistance.

 House Bill 1190 is aimed at people who have children and use the money on drugs instead. It's currently in the Health Services Committee in the House, and is sponsored by Representative Jan Angel from Port Orchard.

"We just want to make sure that on entitlement programs that we are feeding children and families and not a drug habit," Angel said in a phone interview.

If the bill passes, people who apply for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, would be subjected to a drug test. If they fail, they would not be able to reapply for a year. If they complete a substance abuse program, they can reapply in six months. 

If a parent fails a drug test, another family member could apply for assistance for the child but they'd also have to be tested.

Annie Murphey with the STOP Rehab Center in Spokane agrees with parts of the message, but worries the bill could do more bad than good.

"I would hope the goal is to help people. So if this is a way we can get more people into services they need, then it's probably a good thing," Murphey said. "But if the goal is to just prevent people from getting help, getting services? Then, no."

"When I see people that don't work, won't work, do drugs, and have a nicer place or nicer stuff than we do, that makes me mad," Darin Vierth, who receives state assistance, said of other people who get TANF.

Vierth hopes the bill passes so people will stop abusing the system and themselves.

"Should we set up some sort of a program to help them get into rehab, absolutely. I'm willing, as a taxpayer, to pay extra taxes for something like that," he said.

Florida passed a similar bill two years ago, but now faces lawsuits for civil liberties violations. The bill in Washington more closely resembles Utah's law.

Angel also said, under the bill, newly legalized marijuana would still be considered an illegal drug, since possessing any amount of marijuana is against federal law. She said that's important because TANF funds come from the federal government.

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