Updated: Friday, 21 Jan 2011, 7:09 PM MST
Published : Friday, 21 Jan 2011, 4:41 PM MST
SANTA FE (KRQE) - Rep. Candy Spence Ezzell , R-Roswell, plans to introduce a bill that ensures state assistance goes to families that need things like diapers, not drugs.
Under the proposal, mandatory drug testing would become law for people who receive certain types of state assistance if they are suspected of using illegal drugs.
"This is getting out of control in our state, the meth abuse, the coke abuse, I can keep going on down the list," said Ezzell. "If their caseworker suspects they are using drugs, they have to do a drug test."
The test also detects marijuana, said Ezzell. Medical marijuana patients on state assistance would need to provide official documentation that they use the drug for medicinal purposes.
Ezzell said her proposal gives individuals plenty of chances. If welfare recipients test positive for illegal drugs the first time, they'd be put on probation. The second positive drug test would require mandatory rehabilitation. But the third?
"You're done," she said. "Those children will be taken from your home. Assistance will go away. If you don't want to comply, move elsewhere."
The bill would apply to state-run assistance programs such as Medicaid, unemployment benefits and electronic benefit cards, or EBT cards, that the state issues to low-income people.
"What we are doing is to help our families become stronger by recognizing the fact first and foremost that there is a problem here," said Ezzell.
Ezzell introduced a similar bill four years ago, but it died in committee, in large part due to strong opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union. ACLU Executive Director Peter Simonson said the bill is unconstitutional and only targets a segment of the population. He plans to challenge the measure again.
"If you are going to drug test people who are receiving assistance in the form of food stamps, for example, why not also target people who receive tax credits, home subsidies, people who receive state lottery scholarships?" he said.
Simonson also said drug testing will cost taxpayers thousands of dollars. The U.S. Department of Education estimates each drug test costs $40-$50, according to Simonson.
But Ezzell said the program will one day pay for itself.
"In the long run, it will be a lot cheaper than incarcerating the person," said Ezzell.
Ezzell plans to introduce the bill on Monday. Similar measures have been introduced this year in Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oregon. Michigan was the only state to implement a welfare drug-testing law, but the federal 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found it violated the Fourth Amendment's provision barring unreasonable searches.