Possible bill to drug test welfare recipients

By: Kristen Shanahan Email
By: Kristen Shanahan Email

ARDMORE, OK -- Candidates for welfare may have to undergo new scrutiny. Some Oklahoma state leaders are planning a bill that would require welfare recipients to be drug tested.

This has been a controversial issue in several other states where the bill has been introduced. Some say it is a way to insure taxpayers' money is spent more wisely, but others deem this bill as unconstitutional and believe it is a violation of privacy rights.

State Senator Frank Simpson says State Representative Guy Liebmann plans to submit a bill identical to the one passed in Florida that requires drug testing for all welfare recipients in this coming year's legislative session. Senator Simpson says the Senate is also considering writing a draft.

"I like this bill. I think that we need to be responsible with taxpayers' money. We do not need to be indirectly supporting someone's drug habit by giving them money," Senator Simpson said.

Kimberly Sorensen says she agrees with the bill, and that she does not want to support someone's poor choice.

"Well if you're going to be doing drugs that's probably a reason why you can't hold down a job. So if you're going to ask for financial aid to support you or your family then I think you should be able to pass a drug test," Sorensen said.

Senator Simpson says he envisions the bill to include all those who apply for welfare be drug tested, and then to be randomly tested while on the program. He says through these drug tests they are not only saving taxpayers' dollars, but pointing people in the right direction.

"It's an opportunity for them to confront their addiction, and for us to provide a source of help so they can get some rehabilitation," Senator Simpson said.

Senator Simpson says the other compassionate side to this bill is that it will discourage parents from using drugs, especially in front of their children. However, Oklahoma citizen Michael Bridges disagrees. He says people will continue to use drugs regardless, and without the income could further damage the kids' welfare.

"They're wasting money putting into it, because who's it going to hurt? It's going to take away from the kids. It's not going to take away from the grown-ups," Bridges said.

Many fear this bill is an invasion of privacy, but Senator Simpson says it's a good way to ensure people who really need help receive it.

People are concerned that if the bill is passed it will be a costly burden on the state to supply the drug testing, but Senator Simpson says though it may be costly upfront it will save money in the long run.

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