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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: October 17, 2017 01:41 PM
From: Representative Stan Saylor
To: All House members
Subject: Suspicion-based Drug Testing of Welfare Recipients
Taxpayers across the nation are concerned about the loose requirements individuals must meet when they go to apply for governmental assistance. These loose requirements bring into question the types of individuals who are abusing the system due to an addiction. More attention and consideration has been given to the children of addicted parents who are receiving governmental assistance. Children of addicted parents are the highest risk group of children to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors. It is estimated that parental substance abuse and addiction are the chief causes of 70 percent of child welfare spending. Child welfare professionals overwhelmingly confirm that children of addicted parents are more likely to enter foster care and stay longer in foster care than do other children.

In 1988, President Ronald Regan signed into law the Anti-Drug Abuse Act which not only created the Office of National Drug Control Policy, but it also made individuals who have three or more convictions for certain drug-related offenses permanently ineligible for various federal benefits. In 1996, Congress overhauled the welfare program by enacting the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA). Part of the overhaul included critical steps to protecting children in homes receiving welfare benefits by authorizing states to require drug testing of welfare recipients as a condition to receiving benefits. In 2012, President Barack Obama signed into law an amendment to the Social Security Act authorizing states to require passing a drug test as a condition of receiving unemployment compensation.

With this federal granting of authority, many states have introduced legislation requiring drug testing of welfare applicants. Some had their state laws put to the test and have been found by lower courts to be unconstitutional. To avert any potential U.S. Supreme Court ruling on suspicionless drug testing, for drug tests to be reasonable, the testing requirements should be based on an individualized suspicion of illegal drug use. This provided us with sound purposes for enacting the Human Services Code provisions contained in Act 22 of 2011; specifically, requiring random drug testing for welfare recipients with previous felony drug convictions.

Building off the federal law authorizing drug testing and the passage of Act 22, I will be introducing legislation that does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment protections. My legislation authorizes the Department of Human Services (DHS) to develop and implement a system for drug testing welfare recipients based on reasonable suspicion grounds. The DHS would be responsible for training employees, at county assistance offices, on how to identify individuals using the reasonable suspicion standard. The reasonable suspicion standard is a highly defined term, and the courts have already addressed such a standard to weed out preferential treatment or discrimination.

The Commonwealth has a special interest in preventing and deterring welfare recipients from drug use. Children of addicted parents are at the greatest risk for the need of taxpayer-backed state programs and services. We have a responsibility to protect the tentative futures of our children. Every child should have the opportunity to reach their full potential. We can break the cycle of drug use that causes the swelling of our foster care system.

I hope you will consider joining me in support of this legislation.

Introduced as HB1920