State Sen. Arthenia Joyner Files Bill to Repeal Law Requiring Pee-Testing Poor People

State Sen. Arthenia Joyner, a Tampa Democrat, filed a bill today that would repeal the new law requiring drug testing for applicants of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

Senate Bill 284 -- the brief text of which can be found here -- would simply repeal House Bill 353 passed by the previous Legislature, which was signed by Gov. Rick Scott and went into effect on July 1.

The new law -- which requires the welfare applicants to pay around $30 out-of-pocket for a drug test while applying for the funds, reimbursing them in their checks if they pass -- has already been the subject of a lawsuit as well as a report that showed the state is projected to save $9.1 million in the first year of testing.

A conservative think-tank released the study on the state's new welfare drug-testing law last week, saying the state would save the millions of dollars after 9.6 percent of applicants didn't receive benefits due to drug testing in the first month.

As we noted last week, it's not because people are failing the drug tests -- just nine out of the 5,964 applicants (0.15 percent) actually failed the drug test.

The other 565 people who didn't get their funds never took the drug test, but the writers of the study decided it's probably because they're drug addicts anyway:

Those who test positive for drug use are ineligible for cash assistance for one year, but may reapply after six months if they provide proof of completing substance abuse treatment.

Given this, applicants who are drug users have a big incentive to never get tested at all (since the TCA application requires that all drug test results are reported to DCF). From the perspective of the applicant, to not complete the application process is better (and cheaper) than testing positive for drug use and definitively losing eligibility for six months to a year.

The lawsuit over the law, filed by the ALCU on behalf of a Navy veteran, claims the testing is unconstitutional search and seizure.

Since the bill to repeal the new law was filed today, it hasn't yet been assigned to committee(s), and there is currently no matching bill in the House.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley