Topeka Kansas residents applying for welfare or unemployment benefits would have to submit to drug tests under legislation that won final legislative approval on Tuesday, though Gov. Sam Brownback has yet to say whether he plans to sign it.
The bill would require the Department of Children and Family Services to screen individuals for illegal drug use when they apply for unemployment or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, or TANF, benefits. For anyone who tests positive for drugs, the state would provide mandatory drug treatment and job skills training funded by TANF or Medicaid.
Providing that drug treatment would cost between $2,200 and $6,300 per person, according to estimates provided during Senate debate on the bill in February. The legislation also requires that elected officials and some state employees undergo drug testing if there were a reasonable suspicion about their behavior.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, the bill’s primary sponsor, said the measure strikes a balance between being good stewards with public resources and trying to help people suffering from substance abuse kick their habits and lead productive lives.
“Of all the drug testing bills in the nation, this is one of the most focused on giving people an opportunity to improve their lives and to see that their children are taken care of,” said King, an Independence Republican.
Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley said though the bill has provisions for treatment and job skills training it still perpetuates the view that poor residents on state assistance are drug abusers.
“We’ll see how it works, but it singles out a segment of society and stereotypes those people as drug users,” said Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “I still think if it applies to these individuals who receive public funds, then it should also apply to CEOs of companies who receive economic incentives from government.”
A spokeswoman for Brownback said the governor hadn’t reviewed the bill or decided whether he would sign it into law. The bill is expected to be put before the governor in the next two weeks for his signature. The Senate voted 29-9 on Tuesday to accept changes made to the bill by the House last week.
The TANF program provided about $42 million in benefits for about 32,000 Kansas adults and children during fiscal 2012, which ended in June.
The bill also would require the Department of Administration to establish a drug screening program based on reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use for legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and certain public safety officials.
The rules also would cover state mental health positions, along with employees at the Kansas School for the Blind, Kansas School for the Deaf and state veterans agencies. It also covers all state law enforcement authorized to carry weapons, corrections officers, parole officers and heads of state agencies appointed by the governor.