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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Drug testing for welfare benefits one of many bills worked on as Legislature nears deadline

February 28, 2013

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— The Senate on Thursday approved a bill requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare and unemployment benefits—and even legislators—who are suspected of drug use.

The 31-8 vote sends Senate Bill 149 to the House for consideration.

Republicans said the proposal would prevent tax dollars from being spent on illegal drugs while also providing treatment to people for drug addictions. But several Democrats said the measure was a mean-spirited slam against low-income Kansans.

State Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, was the only Democrat who voted for the bill. State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, voted present, but passing on the measure.

State legislators churned through scores of bills as they neared a key deadline called "turnaround" when most bills have to be approved by one chamber or the other to stay alive.

Here are some of the highlights:

— The Senate approved a bill that would establish an adult stem cell research center at Kansas University Medical Center.

Senate Bill 199, which would create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center, would prohibit the center from using embryonic stem cells or cells taken from aborted fetal tissue. Abortion opponents oppose human embryonic stem cell research because it involves the destruction of the embryo.

Under the proposal, KU would appoint a director of the center who would be responsible for oversight of patient treatment and research with adult, cord blood and other non-embryonic stem cells.

Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, said said stem cells taken from an umbilical cord saved the life of her son Paul.

His leukemia had reappeared in 2006, and Wagle searched and found a blood match from an umbilical cord bank.

She told the story on the Senate floor Thursday in urging her colleagues to approve the bill.

— The Senate approved legislation that abortion rights supporters say will allow doctors to lie to pregnant women.

Senate Bill 142 bans civil actions for a claim of so-called "wrongful life" or "wrongful birth."

Abortion rights advocates say the bill would shield a doctor from a lawsuit who discovers a prenatal problem and withholds that information from the pregnant woman if he or she thinks the information may persuade the woman to have an abortion.

But supporters of the bill said a doctor who lies to a patient would still be liable for medical malpractice and possible violations of standards set by the Kansas Board of Healing Arts.

State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, R-Shawnee, said the legislation, supported by Kansans for Life, would prohibit parents from filing lawsuits where they want to be compensated for not aborting their child. The measure was approved by the Senate, 34-5, and now goes to the House for consideration.

— A controversial bill repealing in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants was absent from the legislative calendar.

Secretary of State Kris Kobach promised action on immigration at the start of the 2013 legislative session, but thus far immigration measures have remained on a backburner.

One of the measures repeals a law narrowly passed in 2004 under then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius. The law requires colleges and universities to bill in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. House Bill 2192 would repeal that law.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brett Hildabrand, R-Shawnee, said the bill has a “decent” chance of being heard in committee but a hearing is not scheduled. Nearly identical bills have failed in the past.

— The House voted 63-59 to return to committee a bill that would have repealed a requirement that utilities generate 20 percent of their electricity from wind and other renewable energy sources.

— The House advanced on a preliminary vote, 68-54, changing the way Kansas Court of Appeals judges are selected. Currently, a nomination commission picks three candidates from which the governor selects one. Under House Bill 2019, the governor would select the judge with confirmation of the Senate.

Scott Rothschild, Raelean Finch, Nikki Wentling, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Comments

Bob Forer 1 year, 10 months ago

A waste of time and money. Similar laws have been passed in other states, and the money spent on the drug testing has always exceeded the amount of money "saved" by kicking drug users off the dole.

And by the way, terrible reporting. If I read the story correctly, only those "suspected of drug use" would be tested. What standard of suspicion would be required? I am sure the statute addresses this issue, but without the reporter setting forth the enunciated standards, we citizens are kinda left in the dark.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

KC Star to the rescue: http://www.kansascity.com/2013/02/27/4091117/drug-testing-of-lawmakers-added.html

Apparently it really is if they're suspected drug users, and someone really did try to add an amendment to corporations getting tax subsidies. I think the bill is still a waste of time, but I hate it less than a bill requiring everyone to get tested for no reason.

Leslie Swearingen 1 year, 10 months ago

I see nothing wrong with testing these three groups of people for drug use if there is probable cause. If they find out someone on welfare is using drugs then what? Deny them their check? What if they have children? Appoint an overseer or payee to make sure the money allocated for the children are spent on them? How much would all of this cost?

A lot I would think for the drug testing and salary for the payees and who is going to make sure they don't take some of the money for themselves? If they go to rehab will they still continue to receive benefits while they are in rehab? Will they have to prove that rehab was successful or continue to take drug tests as long as they are receiving benefits?

How would you apply all of this to legislatures and their families?

geekin_topekan 1 year, 10 months ago

Why not test everyone who receives a tax incentive of any kind?

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

Or we could keep giving them money with no accountability. We should test them and take the full costs of the tests out of their checks. Heck, they did not earn it anyway. After a period of time the welfare types can be classified into different groups and some then, could get on a once a year unannounced testing program. They should also have to show up in person to get their vision cards recharged. Same with SSI and other programs where, as some reports have it, 8 months of benefits to dead people get taken by family members. Costs of these programs, could be reduced substantially if they were managed properly. Part of that is drug testing. Working people have to take a drug screen. Freeloaders should get to also.

Alyosha 1 year, 9 months ago

Your use of the term "freeloader" isn't a propos here.

Unless you believe children are freeloaders.

tomatogrower 1 year, 9 months ago

Wow, I thought you conservatives like the way Texas does things. They don't even have to show up in person to apply for welfare. Wonder how much fraud is going on down there? Oh yeah, the doctor who ripped off millions from Medicaid and Medicare live in Texas.

Liberty275 1 year, 10 months ago

This is a blatantly illegal search unless the authorities have probable cause. Being unemployed or poor is not sufficient probable cause. A similar Florida law has been rejected by the federal courts.

Bob Forer 1 year, 10 months ago

Most Libertarians tend to have a honest respect for Fourth Amendment Rights. Good for you, Liberty.

UneasyRider 1 year, 10 months ago

Great idea, test all welfare recipients. Start with the Kochs and all elected officials. Specifically Brownback and his farm subsidy.

flipbackseamonster 1 year, 10 months ago

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Katara 1 year, 10 months ago

Every state that has tried drug testing welfare recipients has found out that it was a waste of tax monies and they also found out the welfare recipients had a lower overall percentage of drug use than the general population.

For those who blather about people who are employed being drug tested, clearly you have no clue as to why. Your employer can be liable for your actions as an employee. The State is not liable for the actions of those who receive government assistance.

Drug testing welfare recipients is simply just being punitive. Being poor is not a crime and those who are on government assistance should not be treated as criminals.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 10 months ago

For those who blather about people who are employed being drug tested, clearly you have no clue as to why. Your employer can be liable for your actions as an employee.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ It is you that does not have a clue. Drug testing keeps insurance rates down and, if there is a workmans comp claim, it can be denied if drugs are found to be in the employees system. Although most bosses would choose to not have stoned employees, they would rather them be on time, be there every day, and do something while they are there.

Katara 1 year, 10 months ago

Do you know why drug testing keep insurance rates down & can affect workman's comp claims?

Liability.

Private employers have it with employee actions. Drug testing helps minimize the employer's liability.

The state does not have any liability with the actions of folks who receive government assistance. And they certainly don't have any probable cause for drug testing people simply because they are poor. Being poor is not a crime and people should not be treated like criminals for being poor.

I am sure most bosses don't have an issue overall with what you do on your time but most bosses, when on their time, don't want an impaired employee and will not keep one on the job even though they are on time, at work everyday & can look like they are being productive. It is that whole liability thing, you know.

bring_JOHN_BROWN_back 1 year, 10 months ago

Your distorted image of the 'drug user' typifies such a narrow-minded world view that accompanies such remarks. I am sure alcohol (use to be prohibited; now legal) contributes to 'truancy' and 'non-productiveness' more so than other illegal drugs.

Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

Sure, But neither welfare nor unemployment makes you an employee and therefore an insurance liability.

kernal 1 year, 9 months ago

Sorry, Cant, but there are certain regulatory instances where employers can be held liable for the actions of their employees.

Greg Cooper 1 year, 9 months ago

Again, chibw, you ignore the cogent point: this bill is aimed at "welfare" recipients. Those who receive dollars for not working. Non-employed people. What part of your post has anything to do with the intent of this stupid, cost-ineffective bill?

jhawkinsf 1 year, 10 months ago

Sometimes it's not about saving money, it's simply doing something because it makes us feel better about what we are doing.

Why not simply give welfare recipients cash? It's because there is the belief that some of that cash will be used in ways that violate our sensibilities. It might be only a small amount, but to prevent that, we've set up elaborate bureaucracies to ensure that that doesn't happen. Whether it's debit cards for the use at grocery stores, or vouchers for housing, or transportation vouchers, it all costs more than simply giving them cash. But we're willing to eat those extra costs simply to make us feel better that the charity we are giving goes for it's intended purposes.

Conceded, it costs more. But maybe it's just not about that.

Kate Rogge 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't think it has much to do with approving how they spend the benefits money they receive. They don't receive cash because the state cannot distribute cash as quickly and efficiently as direct payment to debit cards, nor maintain state accounting records without signed receipts (what an administrative nightmare) for cash distribution.

skinny 1 year, 10 months ago

I have to be tested to earn my money that they take to give the people on welfare. It only makes sense to test them too!

deec 1 year, 10 months ago

Except drug testing for benefits has been repeatedly found to be unconstitutional and costs more for testing than is saved, you're right.

Alyosha 1 year, 9 months ago

You clearly have zero understanding of the programs intended to provide social stability.

voevoda 1 year, 9 months ago

Many, even most, persons who are employed are not subjected to drug tests. You don't have to be tested, skinny. You could find an employer that doesn't require drug testing as a condition of employment. So why should persons who receive their income from the government be treated in the same way as your employer instead of another employer?

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

Of course it's not just about the fact that it's a huge waste of taxpayer money during a time when revenue is scarce. It's about reinforcing the notion that anyone receiving welfare is a bad person. A likely criminal who deserves to be treated like one.

Oh, and it's also about handing a huge chunk of that scare taxpayer money to drug testing companies.

chootspa 1 year, 10 months ago

I'd also like to know what the hell Marci Francisco was thinking when she voted on this one. Does she own shares in a drug testing company?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

I'd guess that she knew it was going to pass anyway, and got some changes made to make it a little less idiotic.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

Yeah - after reading other descriptions, maybe she was hoping that this would be the less evil version of something that was pretty much inevitable?

verity 1 year, 9 months ago

Marci Francisco has done exactly that in other instances. You can trust that Marci has done her homework and that there is a reason for what she does.

verity 1 year, 9 months ago

Marci Francisco has done exactly that in other instances. Agree with her or not, you can always trust that Marci has done her homework, perhaps more than any other legislator.

lionheart72661 1 year, 9 months ago

I think anyone applying for welfare and/or unemployment should be drug tested. I have to get drug tested for a job to pay for their benifits. As a p/t employee of a convenience store I see able bodied young people come in and use their vision card. And boy do they get mad when the machine is down and they can't buy their soda pop and candy with the vision card! They say.."I know I have money on their." I just want to say "No, you have my money on their" Get a job!!!!

orbit 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm sure you pay a ton of money to welfare recipients with the taxes withheld from your part-time convenience store clerk job. Why you probably pay for one quarter of a candy bar per paycheck! This is really about beating up poor people and about you having to feel superior to those poor people.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 9 months ago

Welfare should be make into some type of workfare, where you have to contribute to society some way to get your check. Just passing out money to people who did nothing to earn it is just wrong. Many on welfare appear to have it better than the working poor.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

Putting people on welfare to work is a great idea, but it ain't a magic bullet. Firstable, it'd require more government spending, and that's seen as a mortal sin by most Republicans these days. Second, not everyone on welfare is capable of working, whether it's because of a physical or other disability, or whether they are a single parent who can't afford the childcare that would allow them to leave the house. Making education and training available to those at or below the poverty level could also allow them to escape the trap of under and unemployment.

What's really necessary is to move away from the pettiness that drives current policy-- that anyone whoever needs assistance is an evil slacker in need of a final solution.

Katara 1 year, 9 months ago

Putting people on welfare to work also assumes that there are jobs available.

mustbeboard 1 year, 9 months ago

I agree with it.. if I have to take one for my job to pay for their welfare and food bill it is only fair. They eat a lot better than I do.

deec 1 year, 9 months ago

Most recipients of assistance are children, the elderly and the disabled. In all states cash benefits are less than 50% of the poverty line.

http://www.cbpp.org/cms/?fa=view&id=3625

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

The operable words there being "cash benefits". Throw in food stamps, Medicaid, and assisted housing, and the fact that none of it is taxable.

Cait McKnelly 1 year, 9 months ago

Sooo just because someone is poor they aren't allowed to eat. Wow, you really ARE into a "final solution".

Alyosha 1 year, 9 months ago

You must be bored indeed to post a comment that has so little to do with facts. Sad.

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

"Every state that has tried drug testing welfare recipients has found out that it was a waste of tax monies and they also found out the welfare recipients had a lower overall percentage of drug use than the general population."

There simply is no way of knowing either of those to things, as you can only measure the results of those who actually submit to the testing. Those who allow their benefits to lapse or withdraw their application rather than submit to a drug screen are not part of the equation.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

MIAMI — Ushered in amid promises that it would save taxpayers money and deter drug users, a Florida law requiring drug tests for people who seek welfare benefits resulted in no direct savings, snared few drug users and had no effect on the number of applications, according to recently released state data.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/18/us/no-savings-found-in-florida-welfare-drug-tests.html

But to be fair, that's blanket testing of all recipients. States that have tried testing only for cause have not had the massive drain on state coffers, but they've also found very few drug users.

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

First, do some basic math:

The $118,000 it cost the state divided by the 148 people turned away (108 who tested positive and 40 who refused the test) is just under $800. The claim that "This is more than would have been paid out in benefits to the people who failed the test" would be accurate only if the person received benefits for a very short period - even a single person receiving $180/month for 5 months exceeds that cost.

Second, the article states that caseloads did not go down during that four month period looked at. That only means people ALREADY IN THE SYSTEM weren't leaving, it has little if anything to do with new applicants. Figures from the first couple of months after the law was passed and preceding the court's decision suspending the law revealed a very large number of refusals:

http://www.wtsp.com/news/florida/article/215077/19/1588-welfare-applicants-decline-to-take-drug-test

You simply can not estimate how many people would have received benefits for how many months out of those nearly 1600 refusals.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

Are you arguing that Florida's drug testing program made people simultaneously stay longer within the system while discouraging an equal number of new applicants?

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

I don't recall making any such suggestion. The caseload level is more reflective of the economy than the drug-testing legislation. But here's the thing - since the recession started, more and more people were getting TANF benefits - one would expect that the caseload levels in Florida would have been GROWING, especially with so many people's extended unemployment benefits running out or being cut off over the past year. All I'm saying is that the caseload levels are not a good indicator of whether the drug-testing law is having an effect since we don't know how many MORE people would be collecting were it not in place (other than what is suggested by the large number of people who declined the test).

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Incidentally, there seems to be some discrepancy in the number of people that passed the test as reported in the article I linked to, in other articles carrying the same AP story (such as this one: http://www2.tbo.com/news/breaking-news/2011/oct/11/1/1588-florida-welfare-applicants-decline-to-take-dr-ar-271155/ ), the number who passed was reported as being 7028, not 4056, with the number who failed and the number who refused staying the same. But even with that larger number of people passing, it still means over 18% of applicants declined the test.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

Wouldn't the high number of refusals in this article also be explained by people who either found a job right away (and didn't know they could get back benefits) or people who simply couldn't afford the money for the testing fee? I think the law was later modified to reimburse applicants for their tests, so that may explain why an article from 2011 has different data than one from 2012.

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

Yes, and there are several other possible explanations as well, such as lack of access to a testing facility in more remote areas. I never claimed that all 1588 people that refused the test would have tested positive - my contention has been (and remains), from the beginning, that you can't draw any conclusions as to the cost-effectiveness of the law from the small number of people that tested positive because you simply do not know how many of the refusals would also have tested positive. Not to mention there is absolutely NO way of estimating how many people simply chose not to apply at all.

i_read_things 1 year, 9 months ago

"State Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, voted present, but passing on the measure."

Seriously?! Aren't you elected and paid to review, consider, and vote? Is he taking the chicken exit by dodging the vote or am I missing something?

voevoda 1 year, 9 months ago

Holland wasn't "dodging the vote." He read the law, listened to the debate, and he wasn't convinced by either side, so he voted "present" to indicate that he was there--that is, most definitely not skipping out on his responsibilities. He reviewed, considered, and voted. It's not "chicken" to vote "present" because both the bill's supporters and its opponents will have a problem with how he voted.

Joe Hyde 1 year, 9 months ago

From story: "The Senate on Thursday approved a bill requiring drug testing for recipients of welfare and unemployment benefits—and even legislators—who are suspected of drug use."

Suspected by whom, in what capacity of legal authority? Probable cause for "suspicion of use" based on which criteria? And which "drugs", or drug abuse markers, would these body-invasive searches test for? Nicotine and alcohol abuse (the top-ranked killers of Americans)? Illegal drugs? Prescribed drugs (or absence of same in patients who must take certain medicines to function in society)?

As Liberty275 (earlier post in this thread) said, "being unemployed or poor is not sufficient probable cause." To which I would add: Merely requiring the need for welfare assistance; suffering the fate of suddenly becoming unemployed and needing state unemployment; or being the recipient of any form of government assistance; none of these conditions constitute de facto evidence of drug use. Nor do such life circumstances, as a single criteria, lend a legitimate probable cause foundation for suspecting someone of drug use and compelling them to submit to drug testing.

This bill is a fool's errand, and I admire Senator Holland for not taking the bait.

And in another section of the story: "Secretary of State Kris Kobach promised action on immigration at the start of the 2013 legislative session, but thus far immigration measures have remained on a backburner."

Really? Well, I guess such inattention to your job is what can happen when you spend so much time making Fantasy Land plans to arrest and jail federal AT&F agents during the performance their duties.

chootspa 1 year, 9 months ago

The KC Star said that suspicion was based either on demeanor, past failed tests, or arrest records. Other than demeanor - which is pretty subjective, it sounds reasonable. I'm not sure who it is that gets to tell the lawmakers that they're all acting like they're high.

Curveball 1 year, 9 months ago

How about cutting back on AFDC payments for those who intentionally are single mothers and start collecting child support from the fathers instead of the taxpayers. Lawrence has a lot of so-called Single Mothers and we have to pay for it.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 1 year, 9 months ago

AFDC was replaced by TANF during the Clinton Administration, and its primary effect has been to increase the level of poverty. That should please a celebrant of Schadenfreude such as yourself.

notajayhawk 1 year, 9 months ago

In order to receive TANF benefits, the recipient must cooperate with the Child Support Enforcement Division - THEY will go after the absent parent to collect support (to reimburse the state) regardless of whether a support order is already in effect.

deec 1 year, 9 months ago

Whoops! Florida drug testing loses another round.

"There is nothing so special or immediate about the government's interest in ensuring that TANF recipients are drug free so as to warrant suspension of the Fourth Amendment,” Barkett wrote. "The only known and shared characteristic of the individuals who would be subjected to Florida's mandatory drug testing program is that they are financially needy families with children.”

http://www.politifact.com/florida/promises/scott-o-meter/promise/600/require-drug-screening-for-welfare-recipients/

HardwoodGoat 1 year, 9 months ago

I'm disgusted with most of the input here. Years ago I lost my job and for the first time in my life (28 at the time) collected unemployment benefits. My previous employer denied benefits and we did the whole phone court deal...6 months of benefits and not a single call from anyone. What I'm getting at is it's waaay too easy. Touch tone phone check in to fill up my "card". There was absolutely no face to face with anyone.

I also had to pay income tax for something that I "put into" nearly my whole life. I'm self employed now, after using the state maximum unemployment benefits to start a business in what many have coined as a hopeless economy.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 1 year, 9 months ago

Well good. You will find that unemployment benefits are not deducted from your paycheck. Look at your past stubs. Unemployment is an additional cost to your employer and you are in no way entitled to it. You never see it as it never belonged to you.

Katara 1 year, 9 months ago

Actually, it is part of your total compensation. If you have an employer (or are an employer) who believes in providing accurate information to your employees about their compensation, you would see it there. It is unemployment insurance and it is just as much as part of your compensation as any other insurance plan your employer provides.

And yes, you are entitled to it if you lose your job without cause.

Liberty275 1 year, 9 months ago

You seem to be a nice guy that used his unemployment wisely, so don't take this the wrong way.

"What I'm getting at is it's waaay too easy."

"What I'm taking is it's waaay too easy."

Fixed.

trinity 1 year, 9 months ago

Some-certainly not all, but some-of the EA workers who will be passing the judgment on just who needs a drug test at any given time are very disturbing individuals. This is going to be a mess; I can understand to a point, but I also have witnessed some pretty prejudiced and hateful attitudes from EA workers toward recipients. Also disturbing is this; if a recipient is found to be "dirty" for drugs, who exactly will provide treatment?? And moreover, who is going to PAY for said treatment?? What is the protocol going to be? Anyone know? I foresee a goldmine out there for treatment providers. One last thought-not everyone who receives benefits is unemployed! I wish those who are railing against welfare recipients would stop and consider that there are indeed some families who are eligible for assistance, yet work in very low-paying jobs and just aren't making ends meet. I lied-one more thought-the amount of money dumped in to farm subsidies and such is appalling; shall we start drug testing farmers, too? You know, just to make sure that CRP money isn't falling in to the wrong hands.

deec 1 year, 9 months ago

Most aid recipients are employed in low wage jobs, disabled, elderly or children. Information about food aid benefits:

http://www.fns.usda.gov/snap/applicant_recipients/eligibility.htm#income

http://www.dcf.ks.gov/services/ees/Pages/Food/FoodAssistanceFAQs.aspx

In 2008 31% of food aid recipients in Kansas were employed. I haven't been able to find more current info.

http://www.he.k-state.edu/fnp/2009_Updates/Profile_of_Todays_Food_Assistance_Recipient.pdf

majorfunding 1 year, 9 months ago

I have personally witnessed several Kansas farmers, purchase and consume illicit narcotics with money that they had received for Conservation Subsidies, and Commodity Subsidies.

They could take that money that the government pays them FOR not working, and buy drugs which could get them too high to work.

Almost 70% of Kansas farmers are getting that free government bucks. DRUG TEST THEM.

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