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The News Advance: Bill requiring drug screening of welfare recipients passes committee Print


Created:  Thursday, January 29, 2015 8:46PM


Del. Ben Cline's bill to require drug screening of welfare recipients passed an initial committee vote Thursday on a near party line split.

House Bill 2147 calls for periodic screenings of people enrolled in the work program that is required of many welfare recipients.

If a screening is suspicious, the client would be required to take a drug test. Those who refuse or fail a test must get drug treatment or risk losing benefits for a year.

This is a perennial issue that has been introduced many times before. In an interview earlier this month, Cline, R-Rockbridge, called it a matter of accountability and a wise use of taxpayer dollars.

"When it comes to the use of funds to help those in need, we want it to truly be helping those in need, not being used to further a drug habit," he said.

On Thursday, HB2147 was heard by the House Health, Welfare and Institutions Committee. The panel voted 14-8 to back the bill and advance it to the appropriations committee.

The vote largely fell along party lines. Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, argued the measure unfairly targeted the low-income.

"This requires drug testing of people just because they're poor and really for no other reason," he said.

Del. Scott Garrett, R-Lynchburg, countered the bill requires Social Services to determine there is probable cause to suspect drug use before a test is ordered.

Fourteen Republicans, including Garrett, voted for the bill. Seven Democrats and one Republican, Del. Chris Stolle, voted no.