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GOP Boasts Bipartisan Support for Drug-Testing for TANF Benefits

Press release from the Tennessee House Republican Caucus; May 1, 2012:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—The General Assembly this morning passed a major initiative to implement drug tests for those individuals seeking certain public benefits.

The measure, brought by Representative Julia Hurley (R—Lenoir City), requires applicants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program benefits to undergo a drug test before receiving such benefits. Under the bill, the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) must develop a plan to implement a program of suspicion-based drug testing for each applicant who is otherwise eligible for TANF benefits.

“This measure is about restoring some measure of accountability for taxpayers and ensuring the proper fiscal management of our State’s limited financial resources,” said Hurley following the passage of the legislation on a 73-17 bipartisan vote. “Tennesseans want to have confidence in the system. They want to know these benefits are helping those families who need assistance, not greedy individuals who are trying to get money for drugs. We need to help those individuals who need legitimate support, not those trying to milk the system.”

Following an initial positive drug test, the applicant would undergo a confirmation test using the same urine sample from the initial positive test prior to determine TANF eligibility. The results of the confirmation test would be used to determine final eligibility of these benefits.

In these cases, “drug” shall mean marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, amphetamine, and opiates such as morphine. The DHS Commissioner may add additional drugs by rule. No drug for which an applicant has a current valid prescription will be a basis for denial of TANF benefits under this amendment. The implementation would occur in phases over a two year period.

Representative Debra Maggart (R—Hendersonville), who serves as the Chairwoman of the House Republican Caucus, applauded the efforts of Hurley following the passage of the bill. “Representative Hurley deserves a lot of credit for passing this legislation. She researched the subject, talked with experts, and crafted a practical piece of legislation that instills some common sense into the process. Taxpayers should be proud lawmakers like Julia Hurley are fighting for the integrity of their tax dollars.”

The bill passed the Senate on April 25th with a vote of 24-9 and is now going to the Governor to become law. To view a full summary of HB 2725, click here.

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