Bill to test welfare beneficiaries for illegal drugs gets panel's OK

2011-02-23T00:00:00Z 2011-02-23T00:05:17Z Bill to test welfare beneficiaries for illegal drugs gets panel's OKHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
February 23, 2011 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - Arizonans getting certain welfare benefits would be subject to random drug testing under the terms of legislation approved Tuesday night by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

State law already requires the Department of Economic Security to test adults who are in certain programs if they have reason to believe the person is engaging in illegal behavior. SB 1380 would require the agency to set up procedures to select a group of people every two weeks to come in to get tested for illegal drugs for which they have no prescription.

The 9-3 vote sends the plan to the full Senate.

Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, said the expanded testing makes sense.

"If people are wanting to gain benefits at the expense of someone else's sweat and labor, they should at least submit to the fact that they're not using those benefits for the purpose of subsidizing an illicit drug habit," he said.

Antenori said what he is proposing is no different from the random drug tests given to soldiers, and which are required by many companies of their employees.

Who would be tested would be based on the recipient's Social Security number: Anyone whose last two digits matched the number selected for testing would have to report for testing within two weeks.

"It's fair, it's across the board," he said. "It's not based on someone's opinion."

Antenori said a similar plan in Wisconsin has saved money. He said many people who call in for their tests do not show up. That allows the state to drop them from the program.

But Sen. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said the flaw in Antenori's plan is the benefits are paid by - and the savings would accrue to - the federal government; so all the state would end up with is the extra cost.

Foes of the legislation said they do not believe it is legal.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Phoenix, said it runs afoul of constitutional protections against both illegal search and seizure as well as well as those that preclude people from having to act as witnesses against themselves.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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