July 18, 2013 | Vol. 117 -- No. 13

Drug testing for entitlement programs is a good thing

In our opinion

Leave it to Texas Gov. Rick Perry to get people talking, and certain in some circles, blood boiling.

The soon-to-be former three-term chief executive – Perry recently announced he would not seek a fourth term – signed into law a new directive that would require recipients of his state’s unemployment to pass drug tests.

But much like in 2010 when Arizona passed more strict laws requiring carrying identification in an attempt to fight illegal immigration at the state level, federal laws will likely and eventually rule the day, surely spawning court battles.

Federal law does not yet allow states to require drug tests as a condition of receiving unemployment insurance, but Perry’s bill will eventually follow the protocol laid out by the U.S. Department of Labor which will determine which occupations fall under the law.

The Cheney Free Press editorial board supports Gov. Perry’s effort. Taking that a step further, any government entitlement programs should involve drug and alcohol testing. That includes welfare, those on Labor and Industries and Social Security disability; the list is practically endless.

Programs are great for people that need them but they need to be short-term. But if recent history is any indicator, as in the case of a story we heard where a local applicant for unemployment was automatically signed up for food stamps, government officials seem to want to make it less desirable to get back on one’s feet. That also explains why food stamp usage has doubled in the last five years.

Should it eventually pass the federal hurdles, in the new Texas law the answers from a questionnaire would determine if testing is necessary.

But that’s only the first of many questions that swirl like a Texas tornado.

On one hand, requiring drug testing is seen as a potential Constitutional issue, specifically the Fourth Amendment, which states you should be secure in your person from unlawful searches and seizures; there has to be suspicion in order for someone to look in your house, your backpack or your body.

However, at the time the framers of the Constitution wrote the document, there were no such things as unemployment or welfare where some people get on ­and live on, in some cases for generations.

Another side of the argument is that unemployment compensation, and other programs, is payment for a job of not working.

Drug tests, both random and routine, and administered by many companies have been deemed lawful. So if the private sector that provides money for these programs through taxes can demand an employee pee in a cup, why then is it not OK to ask the same from someone who you are paying through a government program?

If a citizen is going to seek out funds from the government they should conform to certain standards. Take the military, for example. You don’t enlist and do whatever you want, there are criteria and rules to follow or you get your walking papers.

Texas is certainly not alone in looking at instituting drug testing for entitlement programs.

The state senate in North Carolina recently penned legislation to require drug testing and criminal background checks on all applicants for worker-training and welfare programs. Lawmakers in nearly 30 states have introduced such bills the Associated Press story said. In a time when measures like sequestration still make the headlines with headshaking funding cuts to worthy programs like Meals on Wheels to the homebound elderly, don’t drug testing measures like these make sense?

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