Texas Senate Bill 11 aims to make drug-testing mandatory for all applicants to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. If applicants pee dirty, they would be ineligible to reapply for one year, unless they enroll in a treatment program. The bill would also require that parents who flunked be reported to Child Protective Services.
The bill is the product of Jane Nelson, a Republican from the Dallas suburb of Flower Mound, and has drawn the support of both governor Rick Perry and lieutenant governor David Dewhurst.
"This will help prevent tax dollars from going into the pockets of drug abusers," Perry said yesterday at a news conference. He added that the bill would "empower every Texan to reach their potential.
"Being on drugs makes it harder to begin the journey to independence," he added, and he should know, as (allegedly) being whacked out on painkillers definitely made it harder for him to make the journey to the White House. (Though he did regularly hurtle through deep space to Planet Gaffe. "C'mon, man! Live free or die! How cool is that, man?")
State Representative Joe Deshotel of Port Arthur thinks that if the bill is enacted, there should be an expansion of the testing to include many other recipients of taxpayer money -- especially the politicians who wrote, sponsored, and/or support Senate Bill 11.
As Perry might roar, "WHY NOT?"
"There is no evidence that poor people abuse drugs more frequently than any other socio-economic group, therefore I challenge Senator Nelson, Governor Perry and Lt. Governor Dewhurst to support adding a drug test requirement to the application to run for state office in Texas," Deshotel said in a release posted on his Facebook page.
Many office holders in Texas draw larger incomes from the state than any welfare recipient and officials should adhere to the same standard we impose on our constituents. This would help ensure our leaders "walk the walk" and that taxpayer money isn't , "going into the pockets of drug abusers," as is the concern of our Governor.
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Deshotel says that many children depend on this aid and should not have to suffer because their mom or dad flunked a drug test, and adds that the bill's supporters ignore the high cost of drug testing. He points out that between 2007 and 2010, Texans coughed up a total of $6 million to test 51,000 student athletes and only came up with 21 positive results. Most of the funding for that program has since, sensibly, been deemed an inefficient use of resources and cut.
Last month 45,000 Texans applied for TANF, Deshotel adds. "I have not heard a plan to pay for the expanded testing program," he says.
Oh, but there is one, a bleakly cynical, some would say downright mean one.
According to Jim Harrington of the Texas Civil Rights Project, Perry would use TANF funds to pay for the drug-testing. "In other words, he's taking about $350,000 worth of food and assistance from all families from the general TANF grant just to try to find a few violators," Harrington said in a press release. "This is simply callous and perverse."