Mississippi House passes welfare drug testing bill - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Mississippi House passes welfare drug testing bill

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JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

After the Mississippi House Representatives debated for four hours about House Bill 49, the bill is finally making its way to the Senate. The House passed the bill 74 to 46. Supporters of the bill say it will help those dependent on drugs get the treatment they need.

One of those supporters, Representative Sam Mims, Chairman of the Public Health Committee, answered questions from his colleagues about the bill. The proposed legislation will require those people applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families answer a questionnaire then based on those questions undergo a drug test. The questionnaire caused some concerns.

"I'm talking about the screening instrument that we're going to send to a 3rd party and allow them to develop the criteria and then to define reasonable likely hood and that's the part that gives me a problem not the drug test," said Representative David Baria.

Other representatives had concerns with the cost. The screening will cost $1.25 per test. The drug test is $50 and drug treatments are $25.00 per session.

"TANF funds will pay for the screen, said Mims. "The TANF funds will pay for the test and Medicare will pay for the treatment."

"I don't think you should have to penalize the entire family for that," said Representative Adrienne Wooton. "I think that you can help a person without placing penalties on the entire family.We're talking about children that will be without food and necessities. They don't even have the opportunity to appeal the decision it's a one test shot and we all know about the false positive results so I think we need to take a look at the impact this legislation is going to have because there is nothing beneficial about it."

After about 4 hours of questioning, the house finally approved the bill.

"If we're able to help one or five or ten people, help them become better moms better dads better community members then we can do that and so this legislation will enact that and I think it's a tremendous policy statement for the Mississippi house," said Representative Mims.

Governor Phil Bryant released this statement:

The TANF program is a safety net for families in need, and adding this screening process will aid adults who are trapped in a dependency lifestyle so they can better provide for their children. I appreciate the House for passing this measure, and I look forward to working with the Senate to move the bill forward.

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