Drug testing for benefits bill passes Senate

Posted April 22, 2013
Updated April 23, 2013

— Applicants the welfare program known as WorkFirst would need to pass a drug test before enrolling in the program under a bill that passed the state Senate Monday night.

The measure, which passed 35-15, now goes to the House.

There are currently 21,124 people in North Carolina enrolled in WorkFirst, a program that provides cash payments to people looking for jobs. It is targeted to the parents of young children.

"Every kid in North Carolina deserves to live in a drug-free home," said Sen. Jim Davis, R-Macon, the bill's sponsor. 

Sen. Angela Bryant, D-Nash, said the bill violates the U.S. Constitution because it calls for a blanket search of people who haven't otherwise raised suspicion.

The measure requires those seeking benefits to pay for the drug tests. If the tests are negative, applicants would be reimbursed for the tests. If they test positive, they would be ineligible for benefits. At an average of $100 per person for testing, the state could be liable for reimbursements of more than $2.1 million.

"The impact of this bill, if not the intent, is to hurt the most vulnerable," Bryant said.

Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said that 20 percent of his high school graduating class has either served time in jail or died due to drug-related activity. The bill, he pointed out, sends people to treatment if they test positive.

"We have to be aware of how we are creating and we are funding this problem in our communities," Hise said.

Sen. Gladys Robinson, D-Guilford, offered an amendment to the bill that would have required drug tests for lawmakers, members of the Council of State and cabinet secretaries.

"We represent the law, we institute policy, so it should not be above any of us to submit to drug screening," Robinson explained. 

Davis objected, saying he did not mind being drug tested. But, he said, if he tested negative, the state should have to repay him. There was no mechanism in Robinson's amendment to provide for such repayment. 

Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca sent forward a substitute amendment. That process kept senators from having to take a potentially embarrassing vote on Robinson's amendment and prevents the amendment from returning in some later debate. Apodaca's substitution, which was approved, merely calls for a report on the success or failure of the program.

"We seem to be getting into a situation where we're kind of getting above the people," said Sen. Martin Nesbitt, D-Buncombe, the Senate minority leader. Not everyone, he said, has $100 to spend on a drug test, especially those seeking subsistence payments from the state.


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  • Bendal1 Apr 24, 2013

    More of the Republican war on the poor. Demonize them as being lazy, drug-addled weights on society, force them into drug testing to get benefits, cut their unemployment checks, cut their funds even further if students do poorly in class, etc, etc. Not everyone has $100 for a drug test, not to mention may not be able to get to whereever the lab is located. If they test positive, then the state ends up paying for their food and board and rehabilitation, the kids go to foster care (more government spending), all for what? Florida's bill found a whopping 2% of welfare recipients were drug users. This is once again a solution in search of a problem, but hey, the GOP is the party of small government, right?

    Except when they can stick their noses in the business of the poor, that is.

  • michaelllee11 Apr 23, 2013

    Can we get a drug test from each and every member of our Legislature?

  • GravyPig Apr 23, 2013

    "Odd how the left-leaning know that these are all "good" people. Even if it were true, it doesn't matter. What matters is whether they're on drugs. - Terkel

    Odd how the right leaning know that these are all "bad drug using" people. Google is your fiend. You need to use it to do some research into the failure and litigation that surrounds this sort of bill in Florida. You think that people in NC are that different?

  • GravyPig Apr 23, 2013

    "Some of you people are incredibly incapable of reading plain English. IT CLEARLY states that if they pass the test THEY GET THE $100 BACK. If they don't pass that's not our problem anymore. If that person can manage the pittance they get from assistance well enough to afford illegal drugs, they need to just get a part time job somewhere and get off of my budget." - torr10

    Yes, some people(^^^^^^^) have a hard time reading and comprehending. The applicant gets back 100.00. Yep, you read that right. Where do you suppose that money is going to come from?

    So the applicant pays 100.00 for the test. Testing Corp takes that 100.00 and puts it in the bank. They pass. Testing Corp enjoys their 100.00 in the bank. The NC Govt pays back the 100.00 to the applicant. Did you read that alright? So it will take 200.00 for every passed test. 100.00 from Applicant to Testing Corp and 100.00 from the NC Govt to the applicant. Do you see why that might be an issue?

  • GravyPig Apr 23, 2013

    "Guess you didnt see all those people waiting in line a few years ago to get their "Obama money" card, which ended up being a hoax, but they stood in line for that," - Crumps Br0ther

    Okay, so all you proved is that people are gullible and will jump at the chance for free stuff. If Best Buy broadcast that the next 100 people through the door get a free I-phone, you can darn sure know that most folks within ear shot will drive to Best Buy and wait in that looong line. Most will be upset that they didn't get their freebie and cuss Best Buy. The funny thing is, the folks in line for those I-phones will be both Lib and Con. Free-loaders come in all shapes, sizes and political parties.

  • Kaitlyn Apr 23, 2013

    from the article:

    "Rules Committee Chairman Tom Apodaca sent forward a substitute amendment. That process kept senators from having to take a potentially embarrassing vote on Robinson's amendment [to require legislators to publicly vote on whether they should also have to take a drug test] and prevents the amendment from returning in some later debate."

    What a proud day for conservative republicans in NC--NOT! Don't even have the guts to tell the voters in NC that they are above the very laws they want to enforce on others.

  • razor2 Apr 23, 2013

    What we have here is a failure to communicate....
    lets take a look at something here. How many republicans do you see or know that get public assistance of any kind? If you lift the veil you will find very few now ask yourself why. Its really
    simple due to either birth or good fortune many are blessed with
    wealth while the other 75% get it off the backs of hard working
    employees who are never compensated their true value. Now having
    said that you will find most of the ones complaining about people
    getting food stamps are parrots for the grover norquist crowd of bait and switch. Never let your left hand know what the right is doing until its done. The republican party is mostly people of more than moderate means who see life with blinders on and are unwilling to understand how hard life is for the unfortunate and less wealthy and due to the large numbers of people in this category. They are blinded by the lies of their peers used to gain or stay in power.

  • ncouterbanks69 Apr 23, 2013

    "Or, they can simply use their "cash allowance" to pay for the non EBT items."

    Sick sick sick. I wonder what the "cash allowance" (Sure wish I got free money) is used to buy.......mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

  • UNCRules123 Apr 23, 2013

    Actually, they don't need to sort their items anymore. In order to make it as painless and non-embarrassing as possible for these people, our gov made it so they can ring it all up and pay cash for the non EBT items, Or, they can simply use their "cash allowance" to pay for the non EBT items. The tell tale sign is ALWAYS the card with the food stamp lingo on the back - a seal with blue stars around it

  • GravyPig Apr 23, 2013

    "Funny that the same liberals that claim to want to help drug addicts would sit by and allow government welfare to supply a user with money to purchase drugs. You people make me sick!! Anything to buy a vote right? You are disgusting" - arfamr1007

    Wanna know what makes me sick? People who can't take 5 seconds to Google a topic they are talking about. If you had you would see what a miserable failure this was in FL and that the majority of welfare recipients are not on drugs.