Georgia’s Bill to Keep TANF Recipients from Shooting Up.. has been Shot Down

February 26, 2013 15:47 pm

by Bridget Cantrell · 19 comments

As I type this post from my work laptop, I’m reminded I had to pass a drug test prior to my first day on the job.  Company policy says HR would immediately fire me should I ever fail a random drug test.  People use drugs/alcohol as a temporary escape from a life they don’t enjoy.  It’s the same concept  whether a rich Stepford wife or someone in dire poverty – pain is pain.

You/legislation can’t help people who aren’t ready to better themselves, but damn – it chaps me that I’m held to a higher standard in order to make money to pay taxes to extend welfare to others.

Federal Court Strikes Down Florida Law that Requires TANF Recipients to be Drug-Tested. As a result, Georgia’s HB861, passed in 2012, cannot be implemented.

Atlanta, Georgia – Today, a panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously struck down Florida’s law that required people who applied for assistance must submit to drug tests. In so doing, the Court has established a precedent that would prevent a nearly identical law, House Bill 861, that passed in Georgia in 2012 from being implemented.

In their ruling in the case, Lebron v. Secretary, Florida Department of Children and Families, the Court wrote:

“While we recognize that Florida has a significant interest in promoting child welfare, the State has presented no evidence that the general welfare of the children in the TANF program is at greater risk absent its drug testing.”

“There is nothing so special or immediate about the government’s interest in ensuring that TANF recipients are drug free so as to warrant suspension of the Fourth Amendment. The only known and shared characteristic of the individuals who would be subjected to Florida’s mandatory drug testing program is that they are financially needy families with children. Yet, there is nothing inherent to the condition of being impoverished that supports the conclusion that there is a “concrete danger” that impoverished individuals are prone to drug use….”

“The simple fact of seeking public assistance does not deprive a TANF applicant of the same constitutional protection from unreasonable searches that all other citizens enjoy.”

The Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR), an Atlanta –based nonprofit law firm that was poised to challenge Georgia’s law upon implementation, welcomed today’s ruling from the Court.

“We are grateful to the Court for their ruling today that essentially renders Georgia’s law dead in the water,” said Gerry Weber, Senior Attorney at SCHR. “The Court has made it clear that a state may not perform blanket drug tests of one category of people just because there is a vague and ultimately false perception that they are using drugs. That is simply unacceptable – the Constitution requires so much more.”

ddbsa February 26, 2013 at 4:51 pm

Well, there goes the neighborhood. Or Hood!

Rick Day February 26, 2013 at 6:26 pm

In 2008, TANF distributed its highest percentages of funds to African Americans and white Americans (receiving 34.2% and 31.5% respectively), but 2009 statistics from the National Poverty Center at the University of Michigan show 25.8% of blacks and 25.3% of Hispanics below the poverty line, compared to 12.5% of Asians and only 9.4% of whites. Federal funding is being distributed disproportionately among racial demographics, but the stereotype wants us to believe otherwise. Plus, these numbers show, poverty affects all groups of people in the U.S. – it shouldn’t be represented as a simple distinction between poor black and poor white people.

Another aggravating aspect of the “welfare queen” myth is the notion that a person receiving TANF benefits scoops them up month by month and uses them not for rent or other necessities, but for illegal drugs or items they couldn’t otherwise pay for (hence the “welfare Cadillac”). This couldn’t be further from reality. Government-subsidized cash assistance isn’t going to make someone rich – in Pennsylvania, the maximum amount a mother with two children can receive in most counties is $403 per month. Recipients have trouble pulling their families out of poverty at all, and end up in the same spot once their benefits expire. Plus, welfare reform laws limit the amount of time a family is eligible to receive benefits, five years being the max. Exceptions to the rule are possible, but they are few and far between.

Your stereotype has been searched, challenged and dismissed…

Scott65 February 26, 2013 at 4:56 pm

I’m sorry it “bugs” you…but lets go over that definition of “poor”. The law also required the “poor” to PAY for the drug test. It has nothing to do with receiving benefits abd everything to do with government telling you what to do with your life

xdog February 26, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Bridget, sorry your company is so hard-assed about drug usage. Where I’ve worked there have been lesser options instead of immediately firing. Also, my experience is that random drug tests are reserved for the employee who has already shown signs of impairment.

Meanwhile, why don’t you get behind a program to test every elected official in the state to see what they’re abusing? That would make more sense than looking to beat up the poor.

Rick Day February 26, 2013 at 6:07 pm

that program is already unconstitutional: lawyers take care of their own, yo!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chandler_v._Miller

xdog February 26, 2013 at 6:34 pm

Thanks for the link, Rick. You’re right about lawyers. They rank with cops and doctors.

Three Jack February 26, 2013 at 5:34 pm

For past discussions on this topic, search ‘tanf’ on PP, good stuff. Note many suggested this was a waste of time and dollars as the FL challenge was already in the courts. But that never stops a ALEC charged GOPer intent on following the herd. The Supreme Court just saved GA taxpayers a buttload of legal expenses.

elfiii put it best in an earlier thread — “The simple solution is to get rid of welfare. Then nobody will be required to study for a urine exam.”

Rick Day February 26, 2013 at 6:04 pm

It’s always been my feeling that the sponsors of these chest beater ‘tough on being a human’ bills should be personally financially responsible for the legal costs of defending the law in court, once it is found unconstitutional.

Don’t be stupid on our dime, or it is going to cost you, Mr Social Conservative™.

Lead the herd at your own risk, for one stumble could leave you but a wet stain on the history pages of GA politics.

Rick Day February 26, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Was this not the model piece of legislative work that the GOP Lege passed in 2012?

The Last Democrat in Georgia February 26, 2013 at 7:39 pm

When it comes to the Georgia Legislature and all of their wonderful accomplishments, I have only one thing to say…[No comment].

greencracker February 26, 2013 at 6:59 pm

At least when employers test you, they pay for the test — they swallow the cost/risk that you’re clean, upfront.

I would think companies could save some coin by not testing everybody, like, unless your job requires knives or powerful vehicles or whatnot.

And, as relatively few people will fail a job drug test, relatively few would fail a TANF drug test. Is it worth paying to test everybody in order to catch a few?

greencracker February 26, 2013 at 7:06 pm

I think the above cost/benefit analysis is probably why we dont require drug tests of tax credit recipients, amirite?

saltycracker February 26, 2013 at 9:39 pm

Drugs are a health issue. That said a company should have the right to test if it has a policy against being impaired on the job. We should allow employers a tool to abate liability.

saltycracker February 26, 2013 at 9:49 pm

TANF has a work requirement. Maybe the law is poorly written, a Georgia tradition,

Nonchalant February 26, 2013 at 10:57 pm

When you take the king’s coin, you do the king’s bidding.

Jackster February 27, 2013 at 7:21 am

As I sit here on my work laptop, I can’t help but present a few points on why it is appropriate and not outrageous to have a higher burden for employment than for welfare:

1. Liability – I have yet to see someone sue the gov’t for a welfare recipient causing damages while on welfare. However, there is case after case where an employee causes damage and the lawyer goes after the company, because they’re on “company time”.

2. Warranty – If you are on welfare, we’ve already established you are what you say you are – You’re poor, needy, and are trying to provide for you and your family. However, if you work for a company, it’s much more difficult (hence the background, credit, and reference checks) to establish that you are the real deal.

3. Why is this even an issue? It’s like you’ve got a straw man argument going. On one hand, you’re suggesting that all welfare recipients use drugs regularly and that causes them to stay on welfare. However, that would be too insensitive.

So, you suggest that they should have to pass a drug test, and then proceed to argue the same standards apply to employment as welfare. Obviously, that’s not the case, but you establish some sort of relationship between welffare recipients and rampant drug use causing them to stay on welfare.

Sorry Bridget, but the poor will always exist – if you think of their support as a sunk cost, then it makes the rest of the governing model easier to digest.

griftdrift February 27, 2013 at 7:58 am

It doesn’t work.

Propping up government programs that don’t work is not very conservative.

James February 27, 2013 at 9:50 pm

Does it take 18 comments for someone to comment about the absurdity of the line “People use drugs/alcohol as a temporary escape from a life they don’t enjoy”?

Jackster February 28, 2013 at 12:19 am

Let’s make it 19, because apparently the idea of beating a dead horse is about as foreign as the modify button to some of the site’s leadership.

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