Calling drug addiction a “scourge in Kansas,” Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed into law a bill to test welfare and unemployment recipients suspected of using illegal drugs.
“This is a horrific thing that hits so many people,” he said. “What this effort is about is an attempt to get ahead of it and, instead of ignoring the problem, start treating the problem.”
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The bill lets the Department for Children and Families require urine tests of any welfare recipient suspected of using illegal drugs. That could be triggered by a person’s demeanor, missed appointments or police records.
Opponents said that may leave the decision open to people’s biases, but the bill passed both houses by wide margins.
Any person who fails a test can request a second test and be reimbursed for the $50 cost if he or she tests clean.
Welfare recipients who fail the test will lose their benefits until they complete a drug treatment and job skills program. That’s paid for by federal welfare funds. A second failed test will result in a yearlong loss of benefits. A surrogate can apply for benefits on behalf of children whose parents fail a drug test and lose benefits.
The bill, effective July 1, also bans anyone convicted of a drug-related felony from getting welfare for five years. Those convicted a second time lose benefits for life.
The testing program for unemployment recipients is similar, although the state will require employers to submit a list of people who didn’t get a job because they failed a pre-employment drug screening.
The testing, already required of the governor and several other top state officials, now also extends to House and Senate members suspected of illegal drug use.