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MI Republicans Show Priorities: Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

Even though these programs never find a serious problem, politicians just love showing off for the rubes.
MI Republicans Show Priorities: Drug Testing For Welfare Recipients

Here we go again: Give a patronage contract to some big donor to do the testing, and find few results. Rinse and repeat, it's the Republican way!

LANSING, MI — The Michigan House on Wednesday approved a long-discussed pilot program that would mandate suspicion-based drug testing for welfare recipients, who could lose cash benefits for failing more than one test.

The two-bill package, approved by the Senate in an earlier form but now awaiting final concurrence, would require the Michigan Department of Human Services to launch a one-year pilot program in at least three counties beginning by October 2015.

The measures passed the House in 74-35 and 75-34 votes, respectively.

“I think people want to make sure that we give a hand up to those in need, but they’re tired of giving their tax dollars to people who waste it on drugs,” said Rep. Jeff Farrington, R-Utica, who sponsored one of the bills.

“That’s no blanket statement, as far as people on welfare being on drugs, but people at least want to see what the numbers are.”

The reworked legislation does not include a direct appropriation for DHS, but non-partisan analysis of a previous draft suggested the one-year pilot program could cost the state between $500,000 and $750,000.

While caseloads would likely decline as welfare recipients lose cash benefits, substance abuse treatment for first offenses could offset any savings. Farrington acknowledged the potential costs but said the pilot program would produce better data to inform future decisions.

Rep. Jon Switalski, D-Warren, suggested the legislation was more about scoring “political points” than enacting good public policy.

“There’s no financial reason to do this. There's no moral reason to do this," Switalski told MLive earlier Wednesday. "It is only to drive a wedge between those who are poor and how the rest of society views those individuals. It’s a shame this Legislature continues to pass bill after bill to do so. It’s terrible.”

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