Perry, Dewhurst advocate drug tests for welfare

November 12, 2012 10:00:00 PM PST
The state's unemployment and welfare benefits could undergo an overhaul if the governor and lieutenant governor get their way. They want applicants to go through drug screenings.

A bill has already been filed to be taken up in the upcoming legislative session in January. Right now, thousands of Texans get help with unemployment and from the Lone Star Card. Some claim the drug testing is an invasion of privacy.

"I'm calling on the Texas legislature to enact reforms that include authorizing the use of drug screening for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and unemployment benefit recipients," said Governor Perry.

It's that controversial push for mandatory drug testing for anyone seeking public assistance that's getting mixed reaction across Houston right now.

"I think that if people are going to be supported by the state and other people's taxes, they should at least be clean and sober,' said Houston resident Maidie Ryan.

While some taxpayers support some lawmakers' efforts to reform requirements for welfare and unemployment, others question whether state government's going too far.

"I think in a way, it's just like a kind of invasion of privacy, said Houston resident Janie Herrera. "You know, mandatory, you want to apply and get the benefits of all this, but you got to do this, so I think it's just like an invasion of your personal choice."

We did some checking and the most recent state numbers show unemployment is at 6.3 percent. The data also shows last month more than 100,000 adults and children received aid through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

"I think it's fair to have people on tested for drugs, because people on drugs abuse the system a lot," said Houston resident Gilbert Diaz.

Some critics across the country are blasting the idea as more courts shut down similar programs. Drug testing for public assistance applicants was most recently blocked in Florida, for example. Some call the whole idea ill-conceived.

"No studies have ever shows no connection between drug use and welfare recipients," said civil rights lawyer Randall Kallinen. "One does not cause the other."

Civil rights groups across the state are also peeking out over the governor's support for this program, some referring to the proposal as "political pandering" and a "waste of taxpayer money." We'll be following the developments for you.