Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst are calling on the Texas Legislature to impose drug testing for welfare and unemployment-benefits recipients. The measure, Senate Bill No. 11, would tie Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF and unemployment benefits to drug-testing, while banning using public funds to buy alcohol, tobacco, and lottery tickets.
It would also strengthen job training requirements and work to streamline the benefit payment process
District 12 State Senator, Jane Nelson pre filed the bill for the next legislative session. Under the requirements of the bill, everyone who applies for unemployment benefits, or TANF must go through a drug screening and testing process. If the screening warrants it, the applicant must submit for a drug test. If the applicant fails the drug test, they cannot receive benefits for 12 months. But it allows applicants to reapply after six months, if they have completed or are enrolled in a substance abuse treatment program.
Governor Perry said, "In the case of TANF recipients, this will help prevent tax dollars going into the pockets of drug abusers or drug dealers and instead ensure that this money goes to the people who truly need it."
The people who truly need it will have to perform an educational component in a streamlined exemption process.
Texas State Rep. James White explains why he thinks this bill is the comprehensive bill the state needs, "It looks at the total program. We're putting requirements on health and human services to be more efficient by using some electronic means of dispersing payments. We working to tighten those work requirements."
And when we asked people what they thought Beaumont resident Elizabeth Wells said she agreed with the drug testing requirements, "I think it's a good idea so the government isn't wasting money on people that don't want to do anything with their life."
Rep. White says, "We want to make sure we're treating people with appropriateness and dignity."
Under the requirements of SB11, funding of the drug tests would be paid for out of TANF money and if an applicant fails the drug test 3 times, they will be ineligible for benefits for life.
Rep. White also tells 12 News HD, there is a similar bill in the state house, HB161. If SB11 passes the Senate and HB161 passes the house. Then they will go to joint committee, be rewritten and that new version of the bill will then go back to both chambers for the final vote.