published Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Gov. Bill Haslam, Beth Harwell hesitant on drug-testing proposal

Poll
Should unemployed workers collecting jobless benefits be drug tested?

NASHVILLE -- Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey expects Tennessee will put in place a law that requires drug tests for people drawing government assistance or workers' compensation. Other high-ranking Republicans aren't so sure.

The House speaker and the governor have voiced concerns about the cost and whether federal rules that govern the programs, including food stamps and welfare, give the state enough flexibility to start drug-testing programs that can survive a legal challenge.

Ramsey, R-Blountville, recently told the Nashville Chamber of Commerce that a similar proposal last legislative session carried a $12 million price tag, but did not take into account the savings the state or employers will see from cutting off benefits to drug users.

"This is your money that we're trying to protect here," Ramsey told the business group. "Folks, we don't need to give any support to that lifestyle."

Ramsey said he's confident that lawmakers will be able to make a strong case based on other states' experience that the proposal would be revenue neutral.

House Speaker Beth Harwell said while she agreed with the aim of the drug-testing proposal, addressing the state's financial picture is a bigger priority.

Gov. Bill Haslam told reporters recently that he hasn't seen specifics of the proposal, but that there are still a series of questions that need to be addressed.

"We need to see what sort of federal leeway we have there, and I haven't gotten that data back yet," he said. "And No. 2, who would implement that and how would it be implemented?"

The governor said similar calculations came into play during the last legislative session over various proposals to curb illegal immigration in Tennessee, most of which did not become law.

Florida became the first state to enact drug testing for welfare applicants since Michigan tried and failed more than a decade ago. Michigan's random drug testing program for welfare recipients lasted five weeks in 1999 before it was halted by a judge, kicking off a four-year legal battle that ended with an appeals court ruling it unconstitutional.

Florida's law is also being challenged in the courts.

Less than 1 percent of welfare applicants in Florida tested positive in the first quarter after the law went into effect in July. Thirty-two applicants failed the test, 7,028 passed and 1,597 didn't take it, according to figures released by the state.

Proponents of the law have suggested applicants would be deterred because they knew they would test positive, meaning the law is preventing taxpayer funds from being spent on drugs. Critics say applicants may not have taken the test because they couldn't afford the $25-$35 test fee or didn't have easy access to a testing facility. People who decline to take the test aren't required to explain why.

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EaTn said...

Will those receiving govt assistance and will require drug testing include all govt legislation and employees?

December 28, 2011 at 5:18 a.m.
ceeweed said...

EaTn, You are absolutely right on the money! Drug test all elected officials, from school board members to the Governor himself! I'm sure there would be some interesting results. I would much rather know that the people with the power to squander our tax dollars are not loopy on drugs... Of course, positive drug screens would explain a lot of the inane, grandiose, holier-than-thou dung our politicians come up with...I would gladly volunteer my time to help the pee-pee police administer this program.

December 28, 2011 at 7:37 a.m.
Facts said...

Let's let these clueless rich politicians come sit in the Erlanger ER to see all the TennCare cards laid out for substance-abuse related visits to the ER. Let's let these two elites ride along with our finest in blue to see the drug abuse by those who live off the tax-payers dollar for their food while spending any cash they can get on their addictions that destroy our society. Governor Bill Haslam and Ms.Beth Harwell, you do not serve the best interests of this state by protecting criminals.

December 28, 2011 at 7:59 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Gagging at gnats to swallow camels. Our society causes those addictions. I would much rather a drug addict get help with my taxpayer money than the bankers and businesses that got bailed out on the Bush watch. Do you think they should be drug tested too. Why not? They are addicted to money. Why don't we just drug test everyone? How socialistic!

Facts, how many people do you think lose their jobs due to faulty drug tests? The numbers might surprise you if you can even find them. And to think that someone might not eat because a human made a mistake grading a test. The cost is rediculous. But there is one more thing that stands in the way, THE CONSTITUTION! You might want to give it a read.

Governor Bill Haslam and Ms.Beth Harwell, thank you for standing up for the Constitution.

December 28, 2011 at 8:16 a.m.
Facts said...

Chattanooga, the folks above, in their own words show why our city will never be the jewel that it could: "He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the just, Bot of them alike are an abomination to the Lord." King Solomon got it. If you attack those who work, play by the rules and live justly while defending the criminals, the abled-bodied who refuse to engage in a positive manner in society, you, my friend, are the demise and the problem.

December 28, 2011 at 10:08 a.m.
EaTn said...

Facts...I don't have any issue with rules as long as they are made for the benefit of all, and as long as the rule makers are willing to abide with their own rules. Why just make drug testing for some and not others who also depend on govt money for their living?

December 28, 2011 at 11:04 a.m.
acerigger said...

Trade the Bible for our Constitution? The Koran? The Torah? NOT too much difference in any of these "fundamentalists" is there?

December 28, 2011 at 11:56 a.m.
Rtazmann said...

THIS IS KIND OF RIDICULOS CONSIDERING MARAJUANA STAYS IN YOUR BODY SYSTEM FOR 28 DAYS OR MORE,,,,,SO BASICALLY YOU WILL BE TARGETING PEOPLE THAT SMOKE POT AND NOT THE PEOPLE TAKING THE HARDER DRUGS... YOU GOT THIS IDEA FROM THAT IDIOT IN FL..DRUGS ARE HERE TO STAY,,,,FACE IT,,,,,THEY'VE BEEN HERE OVER 70 YEARS OR LONGER A SOLUTION WILL ALWAYS BE FOUND TO SHOW PEOPLE ARE NOT TAKING THEM ANYWAY,,,,,IT IS A WASTE OF TIME AND MONEY..

December 28, 2011 at 2:31 p.m.

I have no problem with those people getting "FREE" government benefits being drug tested. I had to take a drug test for my job and we have random testing here now. So why should those getting the benefits be any different? Personally I think they should be made to get out and pick up garbage or clean up after riverbend or events, anything to contribute to the community instead of just continuing the free ride. Those on unemployment are of a different matter. They have already proven the ability to work and most (not all) would much rather be working and making more income.

December 28, 2011 at 4:23 p.m.
Rtazmann said...

THIS WILL BE A MONEY PIT AND NOT FOR THE STATE,,,HOW MUCH MONEY DOES THE STATE PLAN ON SPENDING TO PROSICUTE THESE CASES...MOST ADDICTS NEED HELP MORE THAN JAIL... JAIL IS NOT THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING...

December 31, 2011 at 5:44 p.m.
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