Oklahoma welfare applicants to face drug screening

Reuters News
Posted: May 18, 2012 4:04 PM
Oklahoma welfare applicants to face drug screening

By Steve Olafson

OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) - Oklahoma will require welfare applicants to submit to screening for illegal drug use under a bill signed into law on Wednesday by Republican Governor Mary Fallin.

Oklahoma became the fourth state this year to approve such a measure, joining Utah, Georgia and Tennessee. Fourteen other states had similar proposals pending, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

The law takes effect on November 1 for adults who apply in Oklahoma to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for benefits. Applicants will be denied benefits if they fail the test or refuse to submit to screening.

"Hard working taxpayers shouldn't be asked to subsidize drug abuse, and this bill will help to ensure they are not," Fallin said in a statement.

Applicants who test positive for illegal drug use and undergo substance abuse treatment may reapply for benefits six months after their denial.

Drug screening will not be required in cases involving just children or underage parents, and an alternate recipient may be named if a parent has been denied benefits.

When the measure first passed the Oklahoma House in March, Democrats opposed to the proposal tacked on an amendment that would have required all candidates for public office in Oklahoma to undergo a drug test. The amendment was dropped in the Senate.

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Since federal welfare reform in 1996, many states have proposed drug testing welfare recipients. Michigan became the first state to require testing, but its law was struck down as unconstitutional by the Michigan state appeals court in 2003.

Florida approved a law last year requiring drug screening for welfare applicants, but a federal judge blocked it temporarily. Arizona and Missouri also approved similar laws last year.

(Reporting By Steve Olafson; Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney)