BEAUMONT - By Megan Dillard - Should people who accept welfare and unemployment benefits undergo drug tests to receive taxpayer money?
It's a topic that Texas lawmakers are debating.
Governor Rick Perry and Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst announced support for a state bill that would require recipients of welfare and unemployment to undergo drug testing.
Today, State Representative Joe Deshotel says if the governor is going to go after one group, he should go after every group.
We spoke with Representative Deshotel.
He says Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible.
He feels people who accept state assistance are a defenseless group that Governor Perry and other lawmakers are singling out because they're an easy target.
Deshotel called Perry's support of this bill "political grandstanding."
The representative claims there is no evidence to prove people on welfare use drugs any more than anyone else.
He also points out there are other groups of people who receive money from the government like students who earn grant money.
He argues shouldn't they too be tested for drug use?
"There are all kinds of government programs that people get all the time but they aren't included in this particular bill. So the question is why and the reason is that it's sole purpose is to reach a certain group of people and say hey I'm tough on this, this is my stance, and that's unfortunate."
Republican Michael Truncale supports Texas Senate Bill 11.
He recognizes there is cost in conducting drugs tests but explains if it will help people become more responsible, then the costs will pay for itself and the return will be Texans who are more productive.
"It is certainly appropriate that we test for drug usage among those who are receiving special assistance. Why? Because it's not fair to the taxpayers to subsidize people's drug habits. And if they're receiving state assistance for their families, that money needs to go to children, not to drugs."
We also spoke with Randall Walker who signed up for government assistance this afternoon.
He says the proposed drug testing is not an issue.
"I don't struggle with any addiction. So I have to say, with that being said, Senate Bill 11 doesn't really affect me in any way so I guess I'm kind of neutral."
State lawmakers will discuss Senate Bill 11 during the next legislative session which starts January 8.
BEAUMONT, TX - From State Rep. Joe Deshotel - Today Representative Joe Deshotel (D-Beaumont) said he was disappointed that state leaders, including Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, would single out poor families by supporting a law that aims to drug test applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. TANF was created to help families in need, particularly children, and already includes a provision that requires applicants to, "Train for a job or look for employment if capable" and, "not abuse drugs or alcohol."
Senate Bill 11 is both fiscally and morally irresponsible. Its even more egregious that it comes at a time of slow economic recovery and while Texas has almost twice the national average of uninsured children. It would violate personal privacy, ignore the presumption of innocence, and continue the Legislature's expansion of government into our personal lives.
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. 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.
The Governor's comments Tuesday also ignore the high cost of drug testing. Between 2007 and 2010, with a $3 million annual budget, Texas conducted over 51,000 drug test on student athletes with only 21 positive results. Most of the funding for this effort was cut after it proved to be at best - an inefficient use of resources. In October of 2012 alone there were over 45,000 applicants to TANF and I have not heard a plan to pay for the expanded testing program. Texas taxpayers would benefit most if its state leaders kept their focus on the economy and education instead of making cynical attempts to legislate people's personal decisions.