The Richmond Register

Local News

January 18, 2011

Napier’s bill would require drug testing for adults receiving assistance

RICHMOND — A bill currently before the state House of Representatives sponsored by Rep. Lonnie Napier, R-Lancaster, would require drug testing for all adults applying for public assistance to be followed by random testing once yearly.

The measure is not intended to be punitive, Napier said, but to help those with drug addiction by placing them in education or rehabilitation programs.

Napier’s district includes most of Madison County, excluding Richmond, and all of Garrard County.

The veteran legislators said he has heard little criticism of the proposal.

“Thousands of people support the bill,” he said.

The purpose is not to attack those receiving public assistance, but to protect Kentucky’s children and state taxpayers, Napier said.

The bill would require testing for all adults receiving food stamps, receiving or seeking to receive monetary assistance, or assistance under Medicaid, according to the bill.

“There’s people buying food with food stamps and trading that food for drugs. Children are not getting benefit from it. Children do not need to be in a home where drugs are present,” Napier said.

Napier said Kentucky has a drug problem, and his bill could help some people escape drug dependency.

“There has to be a change. It’s overdose, overdose, overdose, one after the other. We’re losing our people to drugs,” Napier said.

“Maybe (the bill) could get people off drugs. Drugs are breaking the state up. If we could get a few people off drugs, it would be worth it,” he said.

According to the bill, the Cabinet for Health and Family Services would be responsible for designing the details of the program.

The screening would include, “Periodic testing of the person’s blood or urine for the presence of controlled substances,” according to the bill.

Should someone test positive for illegal drug use, they would not necessarily be excluded from receiving public assistance, Napier said. They would be required to undergo treatment.

The bill states that a person who refuses to participate in the screening program, or who tests positive for a Schedule 1 controlled substance, or a Scheduled 2 through 5 controlled substance, would be “ineligible,” for public assistance, unless those drugs were prescribed to the person tested.

The bill also states that the results of the test could not be used in a criminal proceeding, “without the consent of the person tested.”

Napier said if public employees, as well as those who work for private companies, can be made to submit to drug tests in order to be hired, then those receiving public assistance should also be made to submit to drug tests.

“Why, if you are on taxpayers’ money, shouldn’t you be tested,” Napier questioned.

“People tell me it’s (the bill) a great thing, they tell me people are abusing the system,” he said. “If you knew you were being tested, you’d want to get clean.”

Napier also said the number of people being tested would be about 1 out of every 500. And it would be up to the Cabinet to determine who pays for the costs of the tests.

However, Napier said he favors asking those being tested to pay for each test, about $30.

“I’m only trying to help,” he said. “This proposal could help protect children from parents who do drugs. Who would want children residing in a home where parents trade food stamps for drugs?”

By introducing the bill. Napier said he is not trying to take away benefits, and dismissed criticism that passing a bill requiring drug tests implies that all who receive public assistance are on drugs or would use the benefits illegally.

“There’s a need for public assistance, and the people who need it, need (the help)” Napier said.

The bill is co-sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, House Minority Leader, Danny Ford, R-Mt. Vernon.

In 1999, Michigan passed a similar requirement, making it the first state to do so. That law was overturned in 2003 by the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals after it was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union. A ruling declared the requirement violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects citizens from unreasonable searches.

Since 2008, similar bills have been introduced in the legislatures of Texas, Rhode Island, Missouri, Nebraska, Georgia, Kansas, West Virginia, and Arizona. Two bills before Oregon’s legislature would require drug screening for those receiving any type of state assistance.

Napier’s bill introduced Jan. 7 has not assigned to a committee. The legislature is adjourned until Feb. 1.

Emily Burton may be contacted at eburton@richmondregister.com or 624-6694. Follow Emily on Twitter at RR_EBurton@twitter.com

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