Republicans in the North Carolina state Senate on Monday pushed through bill that would strip public benefits like food stamps and job training for people who fail a drug test.
In 35-15 vote largely along party lines, senators passed SB 594. A single Democrat voted for the bill, and no Republicans voted against it.
The bill requires those applying for benefits to pay for their own drug tests. Applicants who test negative would be eligible to have the costs of their tests reimbursed. The policy could cost the state more than $2.1 million.
At the same time, senators rejected an amendment offered by Democratic state Sen. Gladys Robinson that would have drug tested lawmakers, the governor and cabinet secretaries.
"We receive state funds, we represent the law, we institute policy," Robinson told senators on Monday night. "So, it should not be above any of us to submit to drug screening."
Republican State Sen. Jim Davis said that he did not mind being tested, but insisted that he would vote against the amendment because it had no mechanism to provide him with a reimbursement for the $100 test.
Instead of voting on Robinson's amendment, state Senator Tom Apodaca (R) used a substitute amendment as a parliamentary maneuver to kill the the proposal.
"The substitute amendment is offered to have the affect of killing the other amendment," Democratic state Sen. Martin Nesbitt explained in a floor speech. "You need to know that before you vote because you'll be killing the one that requires a drug test of the leaders of this state since we want to require it for the followers of this state."
"And we seem to be getting into a situation where where we're kind above the people," he added. "Kind of looking down on them, telling them what to do or telling them to be quiet while we talk, and I just sense that it keeps on going."
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